Each month, the team at Switchboard Public Relations connects the dots between the trends, headlines and narratives informing the B.C. tech sector.
For July’s Connecting The Dots, the team breaks down some multimillion-dollar M&A action, explores the new wave of Green Energy, and discusses B.C.’s Centre for Agritech Innovation.
The latest deal makers in B.C. tech
The Long: Vancouver-based 7Gen, an electric vehicle (EV) and charging infrastructure leasing company, raised $8 million in a Series A funding round led by FTQ and Siemens Financial Services. The company, which provides commercial fleets with vehicles, chargers, and financial aid to help convert to electric, plans on using the funds to grow its vehicle and charger offerings, improve financing options available to customers, and develop a software platform to foster project development and ongoing decision-making with their customer fleets. With investments in many companies seeking these services, these new funding partners are ideal fits for 7Gen.
Nexii Building Solutions, a Vancouver-based green construction tech company tackling environmental issues through sustainable building products, raised its valuation to $2 billion after announcing an additional US$35 million from Horizon Technology Finance Corporation and Trinity Capital. Founded in Moose Jaw, Sask., in 2019, Nexii became Canada’s fastest-to-unicorn startup. The company reached unicorn status last year following a US$45 million funding round led by Honeywell. Nexii’s breakthrough technology provides a sustainable alternative to conventional concrete and aims to cut construction waste to near-zero, slash build times, and lower the carbon footprints of buildings.
Panevo, a Vancouver-based startup that helps industrial facilities manage energy and reduce emissions, was awarded $1.5 million in funding from the Federal agency Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).
B.C. companies revolutionizing green energy
The Short: Squamish, B.C.-based Quantum Technology makes a case for hydrogen power as the future of green energy; Vancouver’s Hydra Energy partners with First Truck Centre to reduce carbon emissions by up to 40%; FortisBC partners with Suncor and Hazer Group to build a hydrogen pilot project in Port Moody, B.C.
The Long: Quantum Technology unveiled B.C.’s first 1,500-kilogram-per-day hydrogen liquefier during a company showcase with potential partners and government officials. When it comes to operating heavy-duty vehicles like trucks, trains and ferries, hydrogen stands out against electric power. Critical differences can be seen in the time it takes to refuel using electric power versus hydrogen. For instance, while an electric vehicle can take hours to charge, refueling with hydrogen takes only minutes.
Vancouver’s Hydra Energy, the first in the world to provide Hydrogen-as-a-Service (HAAS) to commercial fleets, partnered with major heavy-duty truck dealer First Truck Centre in efforts to reduce emissions by up to 40 percent without impacting driving performance. The partnership will allow commercial fleet truck operators to make the conversion from gasoline to hydrogen and diesel at zero additional cost.
FortisBC announced a partnership with Suncor to build an $11 million pilot project with grant funding from the provincial government’s CleanBC Industry Fund. The pilot project, based in Port Moody, will produce hydrogen from natural gas. If successful, it has the potential to produce up to 2,500 tonnes of hydrogen per year, which would replace the equivalent annual natural gas usage of about 3,300 B.C. households.
B.C. joins other provinces in commitment to Agritech
The Short: Province of B.C. launches a new Centre for Agritech Innovation at the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University (SFU).
The Long: B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, Ravi Kahlon, announced the launch of the new B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation at SFU’s Surrey campus, which he says will continue to position the province as a global leader in agricultural technology while helping to improve food security in B.C. and around the world, in addition to creating hundreds of good-paying jobs. The launch of the centre builds on previous and existing provincial supports for the emerging agritech sector, including the BC Agritech Concierge Program, the Agritech Grant Program and the Canada/BC Agri-Innovation Program.
Launching in September, the Centre will focus on developing and testing agritech innovations in both simulated environments and on the farm – including at Abbotsford’s EcoDairy which is among the first in the province to adopt already agricultural technology.
A second-generation dairy farmer, Bill Vanderkooi’s Abbotsford dairy farm has been one of the first adopters of agricultural technology with its robotic milking machines and automated calf-feeding systems. With a master’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University, his farm’s notable innovation is a HydroGreen Automated Vertical Pasture, which enables the production of up to 50 acres worth of grass feed within a 2,000-square-foot space, vertically. HydroGreen, is a division of Langley-based CubicFarm Systems, which is the leader in local chain farming, and founded by farmers.
The adoption of these technological innovations is crucial for the sustainability of farming and agriculture, especially in light of the current climate change crisis. While the implementation of these technologies has resulted in decreased labour costs, the upfront investment can be quite costly. However, with the launch of the new B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation, funding can be provided to help farmers across the province buy the technology and improve their efficiency.