Tag Archives: Vive Nano

Catching up with Vive Crop Protection—advanced insecticide formulations, marketing in the US, and more

Starting with the “and more” part of the headline, it’s great to have found an article describing Vive Crop’s technology in language I can understand, Sadly, I failed to see it until Dec. 26, 2013,. Titled “Vive La Crop! nanotech venture vive crop protection of toronto has developed a more eco-friendly way to keep pests, fungi and weeds out of farmers’ fields. and that’s just the beginning,” is written by Tyler Hamilton for the April 2012 issue of ACCN the Canadian Chemical News (L’Actualite chemique canadienne) and it answers many of the questions I’ve had about Vive Crop’s Allosperse technology,

Pesticides don’t have the best reputation when it comes to their potential impacts on human health, but even more concerning — for regulators especially — are the volatile organic solvents frequently relied on to deliver crop-protection chemicals to farmers’ fields.

The solvents themselves are often known carcinogens, not the kind of thing we want on farmland that grows soy, corn and wheat. And they’re not as effective as they could be. Farmers tend to overspray to make sure enough of the active ingredients in insecticides, fungicides and herbicides are dispersed across a field to be effective.

It’s why Vive Crop Protection, a Toronto-based nanotechnology company specializing in crop protection, has been attracting so much attention from some of the world’s biggest chemical companies. Vive Crop (formerly Vive Nano, and before that Northern Nanotechnologies) has done away with the need for volatile organic solvents.

At the heart of Vive Crop’s technology are polymer particles the company has trademarked under the name Allosperse, which measure less than 10 nanometres in size. It describes these particles as ultra- small cages — or “really tiny little FEDEX boxes” in the words of CEO [Chief Executive Officer] Keith Thomas — which hold active pesticide ingredients and are engineered to disperse evenly in water.

Even and thorough dispersal is critical. Avinash Bhaskar, an analyst at research firm Frost & Sullivan who has followed Vive Crop closely, says one of the biggest problems with pesticides is they tend to agglomerate, resulting in uneven, clustery distribution on fields. “You want uniform distribution on the soil,” Bhaskar says. “Vive Crop’s technology prevents agglomeration and this is a key differentiator in the market.”

How Vive Crop chemically engineers these Allosperse particles is the company’s core innovation. It starts by dissolving negatively charged polymers in water. The like charges repel so the polymers spread out in the solution. Then positively charged ions are added to the mix. These ions neutralize the charge around the polymers, causing the polymers to collapse around the ions and create a kind of nanocage — the Allosperse.

The company then filters out the positive and negative ions and loads up the empty cages with molecules of active pesticide ingredients. The cage itself is amphiphilic, meaning it has both water-attracting and water-repelling areas. In this case, the outer shell attracts water and the inner core doesn’t. “While in water the active ingredient, which also hates water, stays inside (the cages),” explains Vive Crop chief technology officer Darren Anderson. Because the outside of the cages like water, the particles freely and evenly disperse. “Once sprayed on the crop, the water droplets evaporate and the active ingredient gradually disperses from the particles that are left behind.” How does Vive Crop assure that the Allosperse cages are amphiphilic? “I can’t tell you the answer,” says Anderson. “It’s part of our secret sauce.”

What the company can say is that the polymer cages themselves are benign. Vive Crop makes them out of chitosans, found naturally in the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans, and polyacrylic acid, the super-absorbent material found in baby diapers.

Interestingly, the core technology appears to be based on a former student project,

The core technology was developed in the early 2000s by Jordan Dinglasan, a chemistry student from the Philippines who took up graduate studies at the University of Toronto. Dinglasan and fellow researchers at U of T’s Department of Chemistry, including Anderson and chemistry professor Cynthia Goh, decided in 2006 that they wanted to reach beyond the walls of academia and create a company to commercialize the technology.

At the time of the Hamilton article, the company had 30 employees. Since the April 2012 article, the company has been busy as I’ve written an Aug. 7, 2013 posting about the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of Vive Crop’s VCP-01, Bifenthrin 10 DF insecticide for foliar use on crops, turf, and ornamentals. and a September 25, 2013 posting about funding for two Vive Crop projects from Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Now in the last weeks of December 2013 Vive Crop has issued two more news releases. First, there’s the Dec. 17, 2013 Vive Crop news release announcing a marketing initiative with a US company, AMVAC Chemical Corporation, which is wholly owned by American Vanguard Corporation and is based in California,,

Vive Crop Protection, Inc. and AMVAC Chemical Corporation are pleased to announce a collaboration to develop and market an advanced insecticide formulation for multiple uses in the United States.  The products leverage Vive’s patented AllosperseT technology delivering enhanced agronomic performance and new application opportunities to AMVAC’s customers.

“We are quite excited about working with AMVAC to add to their portfolio of innovative products,” said Vive CEO Keith Thomas. “Vive is rapidly developing a strong pipeline of effective crop protection products for our partners and growers.”

“As part of AMVAC’s continued commitment to innovate and deliver products with the best technology available, we are very pleased to be working with and investigating this new technology from Vive” said AMVAC Eric Wintemute, CEO of AMVAC .

Vive Crop followed up with a Dec. 19, 2013 news release announcing another marketing initiative, this time with United Suppliers (based in Iowa, US),

United Suppliers, Inc. and Vive Crop Protection, Inc. are pleased to announce a collaboration to demonstrate and market advanced formulation technologies in the United States. Targeted to launch in the 2015 growing season, these technologies will leverage Vive’s patented AllosperseT delivery system to provide enhanced agronomic performance and new application opportunities to United Suppliers’ leading-edge owners and customers.

“We are pursuing the capabilities of getting more activity out of the products we are using in current and expanded applications,” said United Suppliers VP of Crop Protection and Seed Brett Bruggeman. “United Suppliers’ retail owners are in the best position to deliver new technology to growers.”

“We are quite excited about working with United Suppliers to provide innovative products to their customers,” said Vive CEO Keith Thomas. “Vive is rapidly developing a strong pipeline of effective crop protection products for our partners and growers.”

About United Suppliers
United Suppliers is a unique, customer-owned wholesale supplier of crop protection inputs, seed and crop nutrients, with headquarters in Eldora and Ames, Iowa. Founded in 1963, United Suppliers is today comprised of more than 650 agricultural retailers (Owners) who operate nearly 2,800 retail locations throughout the United States and parts of Canada. The mission of United Suppliers is to be the supplier of choice while increasing its Owners’ capabilities and competitiveness. To meet this goal, United Suppliers strives to provide Owners with transparent market intelligence, innovative products, reliable market access and customized business solutions. For more information, please visit www.unitedsuppliers.com.

About Vive Crop Protection
Vive Crop Protection makes products that better protect crops from pests. The company has won a number of awards and was highly commended for Best Formulation Innovation at the 2012 Agrow Awards. Vive’s patented Allosperse delivery system has the ability to coat plants more evenly, which provides better crop protection and can lead to increased yields. Vive is working with partners across the globe that share our vision of bringing safer, more effective crop protection products to growers everywhere. For more information, see www.vivecrop.com.

I wish Vive Crop all the best in 2014 as it capitalizes on the momentum it seems to be building.

Vive Crop Protection receives approval for flowable bifenthrin insecticide

Toronto, Canada-based Vive Crop Protection (aka Vive Nano), has announced approval for their VCP-01, Bifenthrin 10 DF insecticide from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From the Aug. 6, 2013 news release,

Vive Crop Protection (Vive), a leading provider of effective and environmentally responsible crop protection products, announced today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved VCP-01, Bifenthrin 10 DF insecticide for foliar use on a variety of crops, turf and ornamentals.  This is Vive’s first product registration with the EPA.

VCP-01 is the first registration using Allosperse®, a proprietary polymer-based delivery system delivering maximum initial knockdown which allows the longest retreatment intervals.  VCP-01 with Allosperse is a water-dispersible formulation with no organic solvents.  Allosperse polymers are UV resistant to protect the formulation on the leaf surface for maximum effective insect control.

Always use all pesticide products with care.   Read and follow all label directions.

I have written about Vive before, most recently on the occasion of the company’s name change in a Nov. 28, 2011 posting. Here’s the latest description the company has for itself and its products, from the Vive Crop Protection homepage,

The global population is growing and food production must increase. How do you get more output from less land?

Better crop protection products.

At Vive, we make products that better protect crops from pests. Our patented Allosperse® delivery system not only makes crop protection products more effective, it also helps to reduce their environmental impact.

Products made with Allosperse coat plants more evenly, which provides better crop protection and leads to increased yields.

Allosperse protects products from UV damage, helping them last longer. Longer lasting, more effective products mean a farmer doesn’t have to spray his or her fields as often.

Allosperse is a water-dispersible delivery system, meaning that our formulations are made without solvents. Solvent-free formulations are easier to work with and are safer for the applicator and the environment.

Vive is working with partners across the globe that share our vision of bringing safer, more effective crop protection products to growers everywhere.

The company doesn’t offer descriptions of its products but you can find information about its Allosperse® delivery system here.

Transitions at Vive Crop

Yesterday, Vive Nano; today, Vive Crop Protection. I got a notice that the company, based in Ontario, Canada, has effected a name change. From the Nov. 23, 2011 company notice,

In keeping with our increasing focus on crop protection, we are changing how we present ourselves.  Going forward, we will be referring to our company as Vive Crop Protection, or simply as Vive.

We feel that this helps clarify what we do.  We are “simple small”, so simplifying our name is the right thing.

Last February I featured an interview with then Vive Nano’s Darren Anderson, Chief Technical Officer, and Keith Thomas, Chief Executive Officer (my Feb. 25 2011 posting). Here’s the latest description of what the company does (from the home page which is now at www.vivecrop.com),

We formulate and deliver active ingredients using our ultra-small, water dispersible polymer particles. Our formulations enhance product performance, add convenience and reduce the use of harmful chemical additives. Our main focus is the formulation of crop protection active ingredients. We also work with customers to design formulations for other applications.

The company was recently profiled (Nov. 22, 2011) in a slideshow about innovation in Canada by Tavia Grant for the Globe & Mail newspaper. Excerpted from the ‘Vive Nano’ slide,

It can’t compete with the likes of multinational giants like DuPont or Bayer, who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research. But it can work with them to supply new ingredients to their fertilizers that are less harmful to the environment, particularly as patents in the sector expire and big companies search for new replacements.

In its five-year history the company has won many awards and developed a clientele that spans the US, Europe and India.

India’s nanotechnology efforts lacking?

According to the Chair of the Indian Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Committee, C. N. Rao, India lags behind neighbours China and Japan in its nanotechnology research efforts. From the July 6, 2011 news item on India’s Economic Times website,

India could miss the “nano bus” if it did not catch up soon with China, Japan or the US that were making rapid strides in the field of nanotechnology, the next frontier of science, says top scientist C.N.R. Rao.India, which had made rapid strides in IT and space technology, was not doing enough in the nanotechnology sector, compared to China, Japan or the US, said the chairman of the scientific advisory committee to the prime minister.

Rao lamented that India was languishing at the 10th or 12th position in the world in conducting research in nano-science and contributing papers in the field.

“In terms of publication of papers, research wise, we are way behind others, in the 10th or 12th in the world, while China is at the top, followed by the US and Japan,” Rao said in an interview on the margins of a nanotech event Tuesday [July 5, 2011].

I always like  to find out how other countries (in this case, India’s chief science advisor) view nanotechnology generally and how they perceive their own nanotechnology efforts in relation to the rest of the world.  Here’s what Rao had to say about the urgency of the effort,

Referring to the critical problems of energy, drinking water and environment/climate faced by India and many countries in the world, the Linus Pauling research professor said the prime minister had set an ambitious target of producing about 800,000 MW of power by 2020. But there was no way of reaching even half the target with the available resources, including fossil fuels.

If you want the full picture according to Rao, please do follow the link. Meanwhile, after noticing the reference to drinking water I searched out my Feb. 25, 2011 posting of an interview with Darren Anderson and Keith Thomas of Vive Nano, a Canadian cleantech company (focussed on crop protection) has interests in India (we mostly discuss the market not the nanotechnology).

Vive Nano and the American Chemistry Council Award and a philosphy of awards

Vive Nano recently received a 2011 Responsible Care Performance Award from the American Chemistry Council. From the May 11, 2011 news release,

The Responsible Care Performance Award recognizes those member companies who excelled at helping ACC meet industry-wide safety and product stewardship targets. ACC Responsible Care award winners qualify based on exemplary performance, and are selected by an external expert committee. Other award winners this year include Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, Nova Chemicals and Honeywell.

At this point I want to make a distinction between Vive Nano’s acceptance of the award and the award’s credibility and to make a personal confession. First the confession, I don’t probe too deeply when I win award and I probably should. Now onto the issue of an award’s credibility. Something in the news release caught my attention,

“Responsible Care is the chemical industry’s commitment to sustainability, enabling us to enhance environmental protection and public health, as well as improve worker safety and plant security,” said Greg Babe, chair of ACC’s Board Committee on Responsible Care and president and CEO of Bayer Corp. [emphases mine]

One of the Bayer companies (Babe is the Chief Executive Officer of the parent corporation), Bayer CropScience has a product used as a pesticide which has been strongly implicated as a factor in the calamitous collapse of bee colonies in North America and elsewhere. From a Dec. 14, 2010 article by Ariel Schwartz for Fast Company,

Beekeepers across the U.S. are reporting record low honey crops as their bees fail to make it through the winter. One-third of American agriculture, which relies on bee pollination, is at stake. And the problem may be at least partially attributable to clothianidin, a Bayer-branded pesticide used on corn and other crops.

But as we revealed last week, the EPA knew that clothianidin could be toxic when the product came on the market in 2003. So why is it still on the market?

The bee-toxic pesticide problem can be traced back to 1994, when the first neonicotinoid pesticide (Imidacloprid) was released. Neonicotinoids like imidacloprid and clothianidin disrupt the central nervous system of pest insects, and are supposed to be relatively non-toxic to other animals. But there’s a problem: The neonicotinoids coat plant seeds, releasing insecticides permanently into the plant. The toxins are then released in pollen and nectar–where they may cause bees to become disoriented and die.

….

The EPA first brought up the link between clothianidin and bees before the pesticide’s release in February 2003. The agency originally planned to withhold registration of the pesticide because of concerns about toxicity in bees, going so far as to suggest that the product come with a warning label (PDF): “This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistance [sic] of residues and the expression clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggest the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual stability of the hive.”

But in April 2003, the EPA decided to give Bayer conditional registration. Bayer could sell the product and seed processors could freely use it, with the proviso that Bayer complete a life cycle study of clothianidin on corn by December 2004. Bayer was granted an extension until May 2005 (and permission to use canola instead of corn in its tests), but didn’t complete the study until August 2007. The EPA continued to allow the sale of clothianidin, and once the Bayer study finally came out, it was flawed.

There’s more about the bees and Bayer both in this article and in a Dec. 17, 2010 article by Schwartz for Fast Company.

Here’s an excerpt from the company’s Dec. 22, 2010 response to the concerns,

Bayer CropScience was recently made aware of an unauthorized release [emphasis mine] from within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of a document regarding the seed treatment product, clothianidin, which is sold in the United States corn market. Bayer CropScience disagrees with the claims by some environmental groups against this product and we believe these are incorrect and unwarranted with regard to honey bee concerns.

The study referenced in the document is important research, conducted by independent experts and published in a major peer-reviewed scientific journal. The long-term field study conducted in accordance with Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) by independent experts using clothianidin-treated seed showed that there were no effects on bee mortality, weight gain, worker longevity, brood development, honey yield and over-winter survival. The EPA reviewed and approved the study protocol prior to its initiation and it was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Economic Entomology*. Upon reviewing the results of the long-term trial, the Agency noted the study as “scientifically sound and satisfies the guideline requirements for a field toxicity test with honey bees.

According to Schwartz, the ‘unauthorized release’ was in response to a freedom of information (FOI) query.

If the product is suspected of being unsafe, why not make the data available for analysis by respected scientists who are not associated with Bayer in any way? Given the magnitude of the problem, shouldn’t the company go above and beyond? And, what does this mean for its commitment to the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care program?

The issue is not Vive Nano; it’s the credibility of the award. For example, the Nobel Peace Prize is funded from the proceeds of a fortune derived from the invention of dynamite, amongst other things. (I was not able to confirm that Alfred Nobel was a munitions manufacturer although I’ve heard that any number of times.) Does the source for the funding matter or has the Nobel Peace Prize accrued credibility over the years from the reputations of the award recipients?

Could Vive Nano and companies like it (assuming they are genuinely living up to the standards of the Responsible Care program) possibly give the award credibility over time?

There you have it. An award is not just an award; it is a complex interplay between the recipient, the organization giving the award, and reputation.

Interview with Vive Nano’s CTO, Darren Anderson, and CEO Keith Thomas

I first mentioned the Canadian company, Vive Nano, in my Nov. 9, 2009 posting when it received $3.8M from the Ontario government through that province’s Innovation Demonstration Fund. They’ve been mentioned here since (June 25, 2010 posting about their Frost & Sullivan Technology Innovation Award and Oct. 11, 2010 posting about their marketing efforts in India) and, after my good intentions ran out, I finally got a chance to interview Darren Anderson, Vive Nano’s  Chief Technology Officer and (ETA Mar.1.11) Keith Thomas, President and Chief Executive Officer.

(a) Can you tell me a little bit about why the company is called Vive Nano and give me a brief company history, e.g. was it a spin-off from a university; how many founders are there; how did you get to know each other, etc.?

The company was founded by 6 scientists at the University of Toronto.  The scientists had been working together for years and a number had participated in a course called Entrepreneurship 101, which is run by an Ontario-funded organization called MaRS.  [You can find MaRS here.] We decided to pursue a non-traditional route, instead of joining academia or a research lab – and we have not looked back since.  We spun the company out of the university in 2006 and it really got going in 2007 when the full management team joined and outside investment was brought in.

We chose the name Vive Nano because we felt it would work well across cultures.  When we heard the word vive we thought of life; we felt that it had a strong, vibrant and forward thinking feel.   And we felt that it mirrored our company values:  smart, open and responsible.  We strive to be smart in how we execute our work, open to new ideas and responsible in the application of what we do for the greater good.

(b) The Vive Nano website states that your main focus is developing products for the ‘catalyst’ and ‘crop protection’ industries. Could you give me a little more detail about that? For example, I associate crop protection with pesticides, is that what you mean?

A large part of our work is on improved crop protection formulations that can positively impact crop yields and lower environmental impact.  We work with bioinert and biodegradable polymers in place of the solvents currently used to deliver crop protection products.  We are developing products, including pesticides that have the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals used by farmers, leading to cleaner air, cleaner soil and cleaner water.  We’re enthusiastic about working in crop protection because the safety standards are very stringent and we’re working with partners with tremendous resources and commitment to ensuring product safety.  Vive Nano also works with catalysts, specifically on materials that help to improve the air we breathe and water we drink.

For our efforts, Vive Nano has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 companies, as a leading green technology company by Deloitte, as one of the 2009 Green 15™, and by Canadian Business magazine as the winner of Canada’s Clean15 competition.  In addition, Vive Nano has received other market recognition including:

·       Frost & Sullivan North American Technology of the Year Award – 2010
·       Next 10 Emerging Cleantech Leaders Award Winner – 2009
·       Ontario Premier’s Cleantech Mission to India

(c)  ‘Partnering on projects’ is also mentioned on the website. Could you explain how what you mean by partnering and what kinds of projects and products you have or are currently partnering on?

Vive Nano partners with a range of companies, from small Ontario businesses to Fortune 500 firms.  We develop the products in conjunction with our partners, who provide project goals and market access.  We are not able to talk about most of our projects, but one of our key projects is to reduce the use of solvents in delivering crop protection products so that the products are more environmentally friendly.  We also have smaller projects to develop advanced glass coatings and to clean water.

(d) The website features a description of Vive Nano Product Stewardship where you state: “… prioritization process to ensure product information for products with known toxic effects, physical hazards or potential consumer exposure is provided to our stakeholders in a timely manner.” Could you give some examples of you how provide this information since you sell products such as nano silver, nano cerium oxide, nano zinc oxide, and nano magnetite, all of which, by the way, are subject to a ‘call for information regarding testing procedures’ by the State of California’s Dept. of Toxic Substances Control.

We are members of Responsible Care® and are committed communicating information about our materials to all of our stakeholders, including our employees, our customers, our collaborators and the general public.   We make Product Stewardship Sheets for our materials available, which provide a product description, the chemical identity, uses, and any known health or environmental effects or potential for exposure, as well as risk management information.

We recognize that the state of knowledge relating to health and environmental effects of nanotechnology is in its infancy and as a result we are taking a conservative approach with respect to the design and manufacture of our materials. We continually monitor legislative requirements regarding nanomaterials and aim to exceed all current guidelines with respect to occupational health and waste streams, including water and air emissions.  Much of the concern surrounding exposure to nanomaterials is regarding aerosols, thus we endeavour to work with our materials in liquid form whenever possible.

As I mentioned at the start, we want to be responsible in what we do for the greater good.  We are working with the Canadian National Institute of Nanotechnology in Alberta on a federally funded multi-million dollar project to ensure that all of our products we develop are safe throughout their product lifetime.  We are also participating in a McGill University study to look at product safety.

I’m going to shift focus with these next questions:

(e) Vive Nano was featured in an Oct. 27, 2010 guest column written by Hari Venkatacharya on the subject of Canadian technology firms and the Indian market. Is this involvement part of a larger strategic focus on international markets and/or where there specific reasons for focusing on the Indian market?

Cleantech is global, by nature.  For several years, we have been working internationally, though mostly focused on developed economies.  A few years ago, when developed economies were having issues with the recession, we made a strategic decision to work with a key developing economy and chose India.  There was a sound business case and good demand for our products.  We also were able to successfully work with Hari to access top level decision makers in that market.

(f) What have you learned from your work in the Indian market?

First, focus is important.  India is too vast, so we don’t have an India strategy, but rather a Maharashtra strategy.  Second, cost is important.  India really forced us to drive down our costs – the economics in India are based on volume, not margin.

We also found it important to put things in writing – as prep or follow-up to phone calls, as we had some significant noise issues, especially with poor quality phone lines.  We had a number of times where we would speak to someone on their cellphone in traffic and have difficulty picking out enough words to understand what they meant.

Lastly, we found we needed to be there, in almost constant contact in person.  We found that progress came in waves.  If you were about to go to India, were there, or had just left, there was progress; otherwise other priorities came to our customers’ minds.  We were just one of probably dozens of opportunities from Germany, France, and the US that kept coming to them.  SO we needed to go back.  And back.

(g) What kind of a market (or markets) is there for your products in Canada?

As I mentioned, a lot of our work is on making better crop protection products.  These will support the $150 billion Canadian agriculture industry, which employs one out of every seven Canadians.  We anticipate that they will result in significant environmental and waste reduction benefits.  We are also working on coatings to improve the energy efficiency of glass and improved catalysts can potentially deliver major advances in water and air purification. Canada has an environmentally-aware population and a desire to be a leader in clean technologies, so we think it’s a great place to be.

(h) Are you working on any new products or partnerships that you can discuss at this point?

One thing that we are very excited about is our anti-reflective glass coating.  It can improve light transmission noticeably.  It is a very different application from our crop protection work, but uses the same underlying technology.

(i) Is there anything you’d like to add?

Nothing I can think of.

I would like to add just a bit more about Darren Anderson. From Vive Nano’s Management Team page,

Darren Anderson, Ph.D. was the founding President of Vive Nano. Dr. Anderson currently oversees all technical direction at the company, including product development, strategic direction, and intellectual property. He is the author of 4 issued patents, 24 pending applications, 10 refereed papers, and over 40 conference presentations and publications. He earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Toronto as an NSERC Doctoral Fellow.

Plus, I want to say Thank You for taking the time to answer my questions in detail that I much appreciate. I look forward to hearing more about Vive Nano in general, about the new glass coating product, and about the product safety projects with Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology and with the researchers at McGill soon.

ETA Feb.28.11: I understand from Darren Anderson that Keith Thomas, Vive Nano’s President and CEO answered some of the questions. So, thank you to Keith Thomas. Here’s his biography from Vive Nano’s Management Team web page,

Keith Thomas is a proven entrepreneur and was most recently CEO of Vector Innovations, which was backed by a number of well regarded venture firms and successfully exited. He has led a number of large-scale projects, restructuring companies in 3 countries at New York-based Tandon Capital, managing strategy and operations projects at Booz Allen & Hamilton and completing corporate finance transactions at Citibank in the US and Europe. He is a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University, an M.A. in Economics and a B.A.Sc. in Engineering from the University of Toronto.

Publicity for Canadian nano companies, Quantium Technologies and Vive Nano

The Canadian nanotechnology business scene lit up, so to speak, late last week with articles about two companies, Vive Nano (based in Ontario) and Quantium Technologies (based in Alberta).

Anne McIlroy, science reporter for the Globe and Mail newspeper reported on October 8, 2010 (from her article, Nanotechnology firm sets sights on India) that

The president and CEO of Toronto-based nanotechnology firm Vive Nano [Keith Thomas] was looking for new clients, and he was prepared to talk about how Vive Nano’s nanomaterials can help protect crops or remove contaminants, such as textile dye effluents, from industrial waste water.

Keith Thomas didn’t expect to be asked so many personal questions on his first visit to a large company in India.

The president and CEO of Toronto-based nanotechnology firm Vive Nano was looking for new clients, and he was prepared to talk about how Vive Nano’s nanomaterials can help protect crops or remove contaminants, such as textile dye effluents, from industrial waste water.

But first, he had a 45-minute chat with a staff member who asked him about his life, his wife and family.

“He wanted to take the measure of the man,” Mr. Thomas says.

Vive Nano is now working on two Indian projects, including one with the first company he visited. The privately-held firm employs 18 people, and two thirds of them hold a non-Canadian passport. Its clients include large chemical companies, but in 2008, two years after the company was founded, it seemed prudent to look for other markets, Mr. Thomas says.

Vive Nano wanted to focus on one country, and it picked India. There is an aggressive, entrepreneurial business style there, says Mr. Thomas, and huge interest in novel technology.

… scientists continue to investigate how they [nanoparticles] affect living organisms, including humans, and they are evaluating them for their potential toxicity and impact on the environment. The company is sensitive to the possibility that people may have concerns about nanotechnology, says Mr. Thomas, and it is part of a federally funded study at the University of Alberta that is testing the toxicity of nanoparticles.

McIroy’s article comes on heels of Vive Nano’s Sept. 14, 2010 media release about selling industrial-sized quantities of nanoparticles (from the item on Nanowerk),

Vive Nano is committed to driving down the cost of high-quality nanomaterials. The company’s pilot plant is now producing more than 5 tons/year of nanoparticles of Ceria, Magnetite, Silver and Zinc Oxide. Vive is offering samples up to 20L and full-scale production runs are available.

Vive’s nanoparticles are ultra-small (less than 10nm), non-agglomerating, and water dispersible, allowing simple incorporation into existing products and processes.

Vive Nano Magnetite nanoparticles are superparamagnetic with numerous novel applications in industry, medicine and research. Silver, Zinc Oxide and Ceria applications include catalysis, UV absorption and environmental treatment.

Business is not really my field but this looks to be a leap from a small, R&D-focused and project-based company to a more substantive manufacturing concern. If you’re interested in Vive Nano, their website is here.

Meanwhile in Alberta, Quantium Technologies (mentioned briefly in my August 21, 2009 posting) has made a bit of a splash with its recent announcement that it’s building a 34,000-square-foot (3,159-square-metre) production plant in Edmonton. From the news item on Nanowerk,

Quantiam Technologies Inc., this month’s featured innovator at Edmonton Research Park, is bringing Edmonton the potential of nanotechnology to benefit the environment and transform the city’s economy. The 12-year-old nanomaterials and clean-tech company and its 15 employees create, manufacture and apply advanced coatings based on the science of how materials interact with each other at the smallest detectable scale, such as the first few layers of atoms on the surface of a steel pipe.

Quantiam founder and CEO Dr. Steve Petrone and a small, PhD-rich team began the business by developing coatings that provide superior wear resistance to steel equipment. In addition to customers in petrochemicals, the oil sands, mining, oil and gas, Quantiam is working with the U.S. Defense Department to provide improved armored protection for soldiers and military vehicles.

Quantiam is building a 34,000-square-foot (3,159-square-metre) production plant in the Edmonton Research Park advanced technology centre, where it will join an innovation community of more than 50 companies. “From small start-up firms to global corporate players, Edmonton Research Park provides the environment where exciting developments like those of Quantiam Technologies can grow and thrive,” says the park’s manager, Neil Kaarsemaker.

The new facility, expected to open early in 2011, will house the most advanced private-sector nanotechnology research lab in Canada, an example of ERP’s commitment to its biotechnology business development centre.

How does housing the “most advanced private-sector nanotechnology research lab in Canada” act as an example of a commitment to a biotechnology business development centre? [emphases mine]

The news item posted October 7, 2010 on the Azonano website provides a slightly different picture of Quantium’s building project. I gather the information came from a different source. You can find out more about Quantium on their website although portions of it seem to be under construction.

Canada’s Vive Nano and its Technology Innovation Award from Frost & Sullivan

Located in Toronto, Ontario (Canada) Vive Nano, a nanotechnology company acknowledged for its leadership in nanomaterial encapsulation technology, received Frost & Sullivan’s 2010 North American award for Technology Innovation earlier this year in April. (I only found out about this last week when Frost & Sullivan distributed a news release to Nanowerk. Did I miss Vive Nano’s announcement or did they just put up a news release and hoped someone would find it?) From Vive Nano’s website press release,

Vive Nano is proud to announce that it has been selected to receive Frost & Sullivan’s 2010 North American Technology Innovation of the Year Award for its unique encapsulation technology to synthesize nanoparticles. After evaluating the field of competing technologies, Frost & Sullivan was impressed by Vive Nano’s flexible process based on the principle of polymer collapse, using basic, benign, water-based inputs. Our process is green, scalable, and inexpensive – critical characteristics for addressing big challenges in global problems like food, water, and energy efficiency.

Frost & Sullivan is a global research organization of 1,800 analysts and consultants who monitor more than 300 industries and 250,000 companies.

The news item on Nanowerk offers a little more insight into Vive Nano’s current initiatives,

Vive Nano’s current industry focus is on crop protection, with subsequent applications identified in cosmetics, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, and other industrial markets. …

Pesticide formulation is a core issue in the agri-food industry. Pesticide active ingredients for crop protection need to be uniformly spread in small amounts over a large area. Towards this end, it is ideally desired that pesticide particles should not agglomerate. Furthermore, formulations of pesticides should effectively address some key industry concerns such as higher manufacturing costs, harmful environment effects, and help deliver an active ingredient which has higher initial and residual efficacy. Among the various formulation techniques, encapsulation, in which the active ingredient is encapsulated by a synthetic or biological polymer to allow for prolonged release of the pesticide over a period of time, has gained prominence in recent years due to the long term advantages it offers.

You can view a silent and text-free animation of Vive Nano’s encapsulation technology here.

I found this description from the news item helpful in understanding the technology that the animation demonstrates,

One of the key attributes of Vive Nano’s technology is that the charged polymer surrounding the core repels other “like charged” polymers thereby preventing agglomeration and helps maintain the nano size of the particle. “Vive Nano’s technology offers some key advantages such as its ability to create nano particles for most chemicals on the periodic table and high scalability in manufacturing that allow it to scale to thousands of tons,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Avinash Bhaskar. “Further, the technology does not need a dedicated plant and is easy and cost-effective to implement.”

Vive Nano’s initial testing has successfully demonstrated that its nano technology-based formulated active ingredient is highly effective for killing weeds while avoiding the problematic chemical additives that are leading to product bans in a growing number of major markets. Vive Nano’s nanoparticles have the potential to result in improved crop yield and reduced environmental impact.

Congratulations Vive Nano!

Canadian nano in Ontario; Germany’s position on labeling cosmetics as nano products; combing quantum tangles; 1st undergraduate nanoscale science studies programme in US

Today I have a lot of short news bits. First, there’s some Canadian nanotechnology news. The Ontario government is investing $3.8M in Vive Nano and its environmentally friendly process for creating nano materials and products. The funding is being disbursed through the Ontario government’s Innovation Demonstration Fund.

I took a look at Vive Nano’s website and it’s short on detail. They make the claim that their products are environmentally friendly without substantiating it. On the plus side, there’s a very descriptive video about their process for developing nanoparticles which you can access by selecting ‘our technology’ from the ‘what we do’ pulldown menu on the home page. (If you want to read more details from the news item on Nanowerk, go here.)

I was surprised to find out that Germany had resisted the European Union’s new requirements to label nanotechnology-derived ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products as such. From the news item on Nanwerk,

One of the key elements of the new streamlined laws is a clause requiring companies to print the word ‘nano’ in brackets after any ingredient which is smaller than 100 nanometres in size.
“All ingredients present in the form of nanomaterials shall be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients,” according to the new legislation.
However, Germany took the view (pdf download) that highlighting the fact that a product contains nanomaterials could be viewed by consumers as a warning.
German officials noted that cosmetic products that are for sale in the EU must already pass stringent safety tests, implying that the inclusion of nano-scale materials should not warrant additional scrutiny.

I believed there was more unanimity of thought regarding labeling and concerns about health and safety regarding emerging technologies in the European Union (EU). In hindsight, I suspect that’s because most of the material I read about the EU is written after the discussions and disagreements have been resolved or smoothed over in some way.

I’ve been wondering where the metaphors have disappeared to in the last few months as the nanotechnology announcements contain fewer and fewer of them. Happily I found a new one the other day. From the news item (Straightening messy correlations with a quantum comb) on Nanowerk,

Quantum computing promises ultra-fast communication, computation and more powerful ways to encrypt sensitive information. But trying to use quantum states as carriers of information is an extremely delicate business. Now two physicists have shown, mathematically, how to gently tease out unwanted knots in quantum communication, while keeping the information intact.

The scientist as a hairdresser? Teasing and combing out knots? It’s very different from the more usual science fiction reference and it hints at creativity (good hairdressers are creative).

The University of Albany is really pulling out all the stops lately. In addition to their NANOvember events they have just announced the first undergraduate programme for nanoscale science studies in the US. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (“CNSE”) of the University at Albany announced today that it is now accepting applications for admission to its groundbreaking undergraduate program, which represents the nation’s first comprehensive baccalaureate curriculum in Nanoscale Science.

As I commented in a previous posting (Nov.9.2009), IBM did invest $1.5B into New York state for a nano research centre and it would seem that this new university programme is very well set to provide future employees.

One more thing, girl scouts. 200 of them were hosted by the CNSE in a Nano Explorations Program. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The event was part of CNSE’s celebration of NANOvember, a month-long community and educational outreach initiative that includes a series of programs and activities highlighting the increasing impact of nanotechnology and the global leadership of the UAlbany NanoCollege in the most important science of the 21st century. The event included a presentation on the emerging science of nanotechnology and the career opportunities it offers; hands-on activities that showcased the role of nanotechnology research and development, with a special focus on clean and renewable energy technologies; a gowning demonstration that illustrated how researchers prepare to work in CNSE’s state-of-the-art cleanrooms; and tours of CNSE’s Albany NanoTech Complex, with tools and facilities that are unmatched at any university in the world.

What really impresses me with the NANOvember programming is the range and imagination they’ve used to communicate about nanotechnology.