SabrTech will soon start testing its algae-production product, the RiverBox, marking the beginning of the Halifax-based environmental technology company’s commercialization plan.

The Riverbox is a system that can grow algae anywhere, with the goal aiding in several sustainable industries. Algae is a sustainable input for personal care products, food for aquatic animals and a sustainable fuel, and it can be found in the ocean, swamps, rivers, lakes, and polar and tropical regions.

For the past five years, SabrTech CEO and President Mather Carscallen has been researching algae with the goal of increasing production for commercial purposes. The company first came to light when it won the $300,000 first prize in Cleantech Open, an Innovacorp competition open to green technology companies from around the world as long as they established their business in Nova Scotia.

The years of work has led to the RiverBox, which differs from other algae production systems because it can be used anywhere due to its small size and algae’s ubiquity. 

“We tailored it to be usable by anybody—regardless if you speak English or another language or if you are from a third-world country, anybody can use it,” Carscallen said in an interview. “Our system is designed to be plug-and-play, and it appeals to the aquaculture industry and the aquaculture farmers because it means they don’t need additional training to operate the system.”

Carscallen’s research also led him to discover how to use fish waste to feed the algae and then use algae to feed the fish.

“We’ve piggybacked off the versatility and adaptability of the algae itself,” he said. “It creates this beautiful, closed, sustainable system.”

Many cleantech companies that are like SabrTech find it hard to finance their products. However, right from the beginning, Carscallen made it a goal to produce a low-cost algae production system.

Carscallen and his team have been raising money to finance the commercialization of the product, though he declined to reveal the specifics of his fundraising goals.

SabrTech recently took part in a Montreal accelerator called EcoFuel, which was launched by Cycle Capital Management, a Montreal venture capital fund specializing in cleantech. Carscallen said the accelerator allowed him to gain the skills and network needed to fund his commercialization plan and reach his funding goals. 

A Singapore company partnered with SabrTech to complete a pilot launch for the RiverBox.

The price of the RiverBox depends on the customers’ needs. It can be used in a large, commercial warehouse or operated by one person working at an aquaculture site.

“Algae is one of the solutions to the complex problems of the future, so we know that the opportunity is very significant in various industries,” SabrTech Chief Marketing Officer Alexandra Orozco said. “We’ve heard very positive feedback from potential investors and individuals that understand that algae is very important, and the technology we have is what’s going to make this algae accessible for multiple applications.”