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'Coffee, please, hold the CO2': Saltwinds tests capture system

IMAGE: Saltwinds Coffee's co-founder and CEO Brad Rideout in front a coffee machine with a company banner behind him.
Co-founder and CEO Brad Rideout (Saltwinds Coffee Company)

Saltwinds Coffee Company launched its business a year ago with a proprietary carbon-capture system installed in the exhaust flue of its roaster. The firm is hoping to improve on those efforts when it upgrades to a larger production system this year.

The Douglas, N.B.-based coffee maker officially got its start in March 2022, but as co-founder and CEO Brad Rideout explained, that was preceded by two years of research and development that involved infusing the coffee with the province’s ocean air.

Hence the name Saltwinds.

“We deal on the roasting side, so how could we plan out and come up with a strategy for essentially reducing our CO2 (carbon dioxide) footprint and doing our bit to help the planet? My business partner (Laura Richard) actually studied at Oxford and has her degree in chemistry from there,” Rideout said.

“For her, it was a pretty easy task to say, 'let's experiment with how we can actually extract the CO2 that's being produced here'.”

To assist with the carbon-capture project, Saltwinds has received $57,681 from the Canadian Food Innovation Network’s (CFIN) innovation booster program. Founded in 2021, CFIN is a national non-profit headquartered in Guelph, Ont. focused on stimulating Canada's food sector. To date, it has approved $6.9 million of funding to 27 projects.

Saltwinds currently offers 17 coffee flavours online, all roasted with its proprietary system. The coffee is also sold in several New Brunswick stores.

Saltwinds CO2 capture system

CO2 emissions from roasting come from the use of natural gas or propane for heating, so the first step was to switch to electricity. Approximately one-third of New Brunswick's electricity comes from renewable sources. Including the Point Lepreau nuclear reactor, 70 per cent is from non-emitting sources.

However, the coffee beans also emit CO2. Saltwinds’ system is set up to capture CO2 at the point of roasting, and Rideout states it has been shown to capture 99 per cent of emissions from its five-kilogram roaster.

Experimentation first began in a modified popcorn machine used to test roasting with its ocean air process. Rideout described the capture system as a 'trap' installed in the exhaust flue, prompted by a chemical reaction.

Saltwinds enlisted the Research and Productivity Council, New Brunswick’s provincial research organization, to act as a third-party tester both before and after the scale-up project. Through this, they believe the overall reduction on CO2 emissions from their coffee production is approximately 13 per cent.

“We're still verifying the exact numbers through the third-party testers, and we'll see if that holds with our larger-scale roaster,” Rideout said. “But it's a fairly significant amount, if you consider if that amount could be reduced for all the coffee that's consumed in the world.”

The company has a co-roasting facility in Montreal, but for this project has ordered a new roaster which it hopes to install in a new facility in the next three months. The location has yet to be announced; though it will be in Canada and Douglas is one of the options.

The CFIN-funded project would involve scaling that solution, starting with a 20-kilogram roaster. According to Rideout, manufacturers would consider an industrial-sized roaster to be around 60 kilograms.

Future of Saltwinds’ CO2 capture

Saltwinds plans to focus on this project in 2023, but the company is striving to reduce emissions at every step of its coffee production.

“Our end game is all-around coffee sales,” Rideout said. “We're actually striving for zero emissions overall in our coffee, and it's going to be a multi-year challenge for us.”

He said roasters around the world have expressed interest in Saltwinds’ technologies, creating potential for other lines of business. However, Rideout stressed that is contingent on the results of the CFIN project.

Saltwinds currently consists of four employees, although by the end of the year Rideout expects to expand to about 20.

He explained that with the new roaster anticipated to multiply its production capacity by five, the company is on a "clear growth path." Saltwinds is also expecting to undergo a similar upgrade in 2024.

“I do think it's important that there's really not a lot being done on the roasting side with respect to the reduction of CO2 right now, but I do hear a lot of rumblings about it," Rideout said.

"I think people are interested in that, but they're not exactly sure how to do it, or what the path forward would be for them. So I do expect to see much more innovation and a lot more demand for low-CO2 technologies and coffees in the near future.”

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