Sustainable Business News (SBIZ)
c/o Squall Inc.
P.O. Box 1484, Stn. B
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5P6
Canada: 1-855-569-6300

alterBiota raises $4M for low-carbon concrete additive

N.S. company's biographene can cut demand for Portland cement, CEO says

alterBiota's biographene-based concrete additive can lower the amount of Portland cement used to make the crucial building material, the company says. (Courtesy Business Development Bank of Canada)

Sydney, N.S.-based alterBiota has received $4 million in seed funding to increase hiring and upgrade its commercial-scale facility to make a concrete additive based on biographene.

Biographene, a form of graphene made from organic materials, is a super-strong carbon-based material that has caught the eye of various industries for its many applications, such as a low-carbon ingredient for concrete.

Such potential caught the attention of alterBiota CEO Mark Masotti, a chemical engineer who researched graphene’s ability to decarbonize concrete while on parental leave in 2019. Fascinated by its application, he explored the idea in his basement lab and applied for a provisional patent, then developed the idea into a company.

“I grew up in construction,” he said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada, describing his Italian-Canadian roots. Going against expectations to end up in civil engineering, alterBiota lets him pursue his family background in construction to "use residue from an industry to create a high-value added product in an industry that I was quite familiar with.”

Now having conducted tests on its biographene and establishing a pilot plant, Masotti plans to go further in more than doubling his company's staff and building a scale-up plant.

Turning wood into a concrete ingredient

alterBiota’s biographene is produced by taking the wood byproduct from sawmills and subjecting it to pyrolysis. Next, the wood residues are mixed in a water-based chemical solution for exfoliation. The end product is a liquid concrete additive that is 10 per cent to 25 per cent stronger than Portland cement at a fraction of the dose, Masotti said.

He emphasized the environmental friendliness of the company’s process, saying it uses renewable materials and excludes virgin wood, does not involve toxic chemicals or fossil fuels, and generates a carbon-negative product.

A key goal is to help decarbonize concrete and cement, which are carbon-intensive materials. Responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, companies around the world are working to minimize pollution from the industry. alterBiota’s biographene cuts the amount of Portland cement needed to produce concrete, and encases carbon from the wood residue in concrete.

A study the company conducted found the biographene would offset 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per plant for a year compared to average production of a Portland cement plant.

The biographene improves the quality of concrete compared to Portland cement, Massoti said. It also solves a supply gap for graphene.

“We were not the first ones to put graphene into concrete, but it’s been struggling to get off the bench because graphene typically comes from mined graphite. It’s very expensive and it’s very high purity and hard to handle.” alterBiota’s biographene can fill this demand as it is not super high purity graphene, but a “right-sized biographene material for the concrete that can scale and can have the use-cases necessary for the most consumed material on the planet - concrete,” he continued.

Massoti also argues biographene is better for a company’s bottom line. Using alterBiota’s biographene costs less than a proportional amount of Portland cement, meaning a business can save money while decarbonizing.

alterBiota has a pilot plant in Edwardsville, N.S., where it is partnered with a nearby sawmill that is interested in providing the feedstock.

Massoti presented the company’s product at a pitch competition it did not win, but a member of Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) in the audience was interested enough to form a relationship that blossomed into its latest funding round.

Funding alterBiota

In an investment led by Invest Nova Scotia, with involvement from the BDC’s Climate Tech Fund and private investors, a total of $4 million went to alterBiota to build up its commercial-scale plant in Nova Scotia, conduct more industrial trials and hire 12 to 15 staff members to bolster its team of nine.

The scale-up plan will expand the pilot plant, with expectations for it to be ready by the summer of 2027 and vertically integrated on site. The first phase of production is planned to produce 2,200 tonnes per year of solid biographene that gets converted into a liquid one-to-one.

Pascal Lanctot, a partner at the BDC’s Climate Tech Fund, told Sustainable Biz Canada the investment into alterBiota “cover(s) all the angles” for decarbonizing cement and concrete, joining its investments into CarbiCrete and Carbon Upcycling.

alterBiota’s biographene has caught the attention of the concrete industry for its ease of use as a liquid — “people are eager to try our material,” Massoti said. This summer, he plans to showcase the biographene to the world and conduct large-scale pilots with industry partners.

The company's goal this year is to hit its commercial stride and find buyers for its carbon credit program.

Massoti’s goal is to raise $25 million to $30 million for a Series A fundraise.

Industry Events