Tapping into the Global Hacking Health Network

It was a gorgeous fall day in midtown Detroit when we sat down with Sebastien Mabillard, the Executive Director of Swiss Digital Health, for a chat about all things health and tech.

Sebastien flew in from Switzerland in search of best practices for developing the health tech sector to bring back home – and was eager to learn about the cross-border Med Health Cluster and Hacking Health Windsor-Detroit, spearheaded by WEtech Alliance and TechTown Detroit.

“In Hacking Health you have this global platform for tackling health care challenges,” says Sebastien.  “The systems may be different, but the challenges are so similar that you’re sharing new approaches and new insights.”

He was catching his breath after a brisk agenda already shuttled him through Montreal and Toronto – where he met with the Hacking Health teams on the ground, toured the MaRS Discovery District that accelerates tech companies, and met with folks from St. Elizabeth and CHU Saint Justine hospital.

Along the way Sebastien participated in the Cooperathon – the largest open innovation competition in Canada and the successful inaugural Arthritis Hack hosted by Hacking Health Toronto.

Sebastien’s visit, and subsequent meetings with stakeholders in Detroit and Ann Arbor was organized by Zain Ismail, a Senior Consultant at Henry Ford Health System and member of the Organizing Committee for Hacking Health Windsor-Detroit.  This included touring the Henry Ford Innovation Institute and meeting with Henry Ford’s performance improvement team to discuss use cases for digital health technology in an urban healthcare environment.

Paul Riser hosted our meeting at Tech Town Detroit, where he is the Director of Tech-Based Entrepreneurship.

Crossing borders and boundaries in search of common ground is nothing new for Sebastien.  The Swiss health care system spans 26 cantons – each one responsible for delivering health care with their own local variations – and across four languages.

“For testing and designing solutions, Switzerland is this little laboratory because you can test across three cultures and three languages – it’s a plus and it’s part of our pitch to health care companies,” says Sebastien.

Swiss Digital Health was established in 2016 to bring creative people together in tech and health – to serve as that bridge – which is what attracted Sebastien to Hacking Health.

But the actual hackathon is just the beginning, he says.

“What is critical is having the service around the idea, to support the people who leave a Hacking Health hackathon with an idea,” Sebastien says.  “What’s next? That’s’ the critical question.  And that’s the question behind Swiss Digital Health.”

Sebastien was impressed when Paul Riser delved into the MedHealth Cluster initiative featuring 25 cross-border partners in Southeast Michigan and Southwestern Ontario that emerged from the original Hacking Health Windsor-Detroit.

The Cluster is an informal collaborative of health care practitioners, hospitals, research centres, insurance providers and economic development organizations that leverages assets to boost the region’s status as a hub of innovation in the health tech sector.

For example, the MedHealth Cluster is building a commercialization Pathfinder that will guide medical device and digital health innovators on their path toward commercialization.  The Pathfinder provides that kind of road map to support for any health care entrepreneur that walks through the door.

The Cluster is also conducting a regional assessment of the advantages and gaps of the health sciences sector in the region.

Left to right: Irek Kusmierczyk, Paul Riser, Sebastien Mabillard and Zain Ismail at TechTown Detroit

At the same time, the Medhealth Cluster continues to host an annual Medhealth Summit that brings together health care organizations and innovators, building those important bridges between creative people at the intersection of health and tech.

The Swiss Digital Health initiative came about from an earlier initiative called The Ark Foundation – which established a network of tech accelerators and incubators in the canton of Valais to develop tech industries across numerous sectors through a network of connected campuses such a BioArk, TechnoArk, IdeArk and PhytoArk that have their own specialty.

“We are focusing our attention on the intersections of IT with health, energy, smart cities etc.,” says Sebastien.

It was interesting to hear Sebastien discuss a pilot project from Swiss Post – the national mail carrier.  They are deploying drones to send laboratory tests from hospitals to labs and back in the tourist town of Lugano.

Could we see drones one day transporting lab tests and tissue samples between Canadian and American hospitals across the Detroit River?

After the meeting – Sebastien set off to visit Fast Forward Medical Innovation at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before setting off to Navicent Health in Macon, Georgia.

The global Hacking Health network at work.

Irek Kusmierczyk, PhD is the Director of Partnerships at WEtech Alliance, a Regional Innovation Centre accelerating tech & innovation in Windsor-Essex, co-founder of Hacking Health Windsor-Detroit and member of the cross-border MedHealth Cluster.

Canada’s Cleantech Industry is Having a Back to the Future Moment

By Tyler Hamilton, via The Toronto Star

John Paul Morgan shines a green penlight on a prototype that he created — a solar optic that converts light into electricity. As he does, the beam strikes the device’s acrylic surface, then bends abruptly at a right angle toward the centre, where it elegantly converges on a thumbnail-sized solar cell that produces the power.

It has been nearly a decade since he developed this device, and his technology has improved dramatically since then. Now significantly more affordable, it is also lighter, better designed, and arguably one of the more efficient ways to produce solar electricity on the planet.

Looking back on the source of inspiration for his unique design, Morgan, co-founder and chief technology officer of Toronto-based Morgan Solar, points to the early 2000s when he worked in Ottawa for JDS Uniphase, the optical-networking pioneer that at the time was a giant of Canada’s world-leading telecom scene.


Read more about federal investment in tidal energy turbines

A Fresh Look: Agritech


We hear it all the time – “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – everyone says we should do it. We know that its what the Earth needs from us to thrive, but is it possible that being environmentally friendly can also be a huge advantage for businesses? Is it possible to use new technology to reduce your Carbon footprint, while also reducing your expenses? To all of this I give a resounding YES!

My name is Dave Froese and I’m the Energy Manager here at NatureFresh™ Farms, an agricultural and greenhouse company located in Leamington, Ontario and Delta, Ohio. I’ve been part of the NatureFresh™ team for over 10 years and since day 1 I’ve been working on projects and finding solutions for the energy challenges we face everyday. Today I’ll try my best to explain all of the ways our greenhouse operation uses technology to manage energy usage and environmental responsibility. We deal with wood combustion, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reactions, water reclamation/treatment, and electricity management every day to make sure we’re not only growing the best veggies around, but also using our resources in the most efficient way! As you’ll learn, all of these different types of energies interact with each other and its our team’s job to make sure we always have the technology in place to be the leader in our industry!

NatureFresh™ Farms is part of the government ICI program. ICI stands for Industrial Conservation Initiative and its mission is to work with businesses to control their energy usage, and if we do, we get a savings on our energy bill! What we have to do is stay below a specific energy usage rate during the 5 peak periods in the province of Ontario, they call it the High 5. We can save money by using less resources, which means we will need to buy less resources, which also means less costs, it’s a win-win! So how do we do this?

Let’s start with the greenhouse temperature. We have a goal at NatureFresh™ to grow all year round and that can be challenging, especially during the winter months, when the outside temperatures are cold. What we do is create heat that is released inside the greenhouse through pipes, it allows our plants to still grow in their ideal temperature. Re-used water flows through the pipes in a cycle that allows the water to be heated through the burning of materials (we’ll get to that below), the heat is then released into the greenhouse space through each growing row. The water returns to boilers to heat up again and repeat the cycle! Our heating system was designed with resource efficiency in mind as the water is never in contact with any outside material and because of this, we can reuse the water without any contamination. This reduces the demand on the local community’s water supply and we ensure that we’re not returning polluted water back to the area.


We have very specific sensors within each greenhouse to ensure that the temperature remains at the proper level at all times, which also allows us to control our resources efficiently. The heat is created through the burning of wood and the burning of gas. During the cold winter months, we always start with the burning of the wood, this valuable material that we actually save from going to the landfill! You got it, we search across Ontario for large quantities of wood that would normally be headed straight for the trash, and bring it back to our facilities to re-use as an energy source. Each year, over 15,000 tons (about the same weight as 7500 cars) of re-purposed wood is used to heat our greenhouses. The more effectively we can use the wood to heat the greenhouse, the less gas we will need to purchase and burn, helping our costs and carbon footprint!

Our greenhouses have the ability to store the heat energy that we generate by using our integrated boiler system. NatureFresh™ facilities have a cohesive heating unit that allows us to efficiently heat and store the water, which is critical in keeping the greenhouse temperature constant. These systems allow us to store the heat for an extended period of time, which helps us in two ways: first, by having a storage of heat at all times, we can run the boilers at a lower flame, which is better for our gas usage, and second, if there every comes a time where our systems shut down, we have over 12 hours of heat stored to keep things running smoothly, that type of flexibility is so important!


No matter what we burn, we have to consider our CO2 situation: as you may know Carbon Dioxide is a critical ingredient for the survival of plants and it’s our job to make sure that they always have the correct level of CO2 in the greenhouse for them to grow. Carbon Dioxide levels are constantly being recorded to ensure that we remain at the proper level. The greenhouses operate in a unique feedback loop that requires the production of CO2 to heat the space, and then the consumption of that same CO2 by the plants to ensure their health.

One of the best parts of my job is that each day I get the chance to work on new projects that help make our energy usage more efficient. It is an exciting and challenging task, and one that we know that will make a huge impact on our business and the environment. They key for us is to find new techniques and to utilize the most advanced technology to ensure that the transfer from fuel to energy is happening at the highest efficiency possible. As you learned above, not only will these advances create an environmentally sustainable operation, but they will also be affecting our balance sheet and finances. Being responsible with your resources becomes one of the most powerful business advantages that you can have. In the business world today, it is important to focus on the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Here at NatureFresh™, our drive to continuously develop and compare ourselves to the world leaders is what keeps us motivated: the team has been traveling around the world looking at some the best practices of leading companies and we are excited to take what we have learned and bring it back to NatureFresh™!  Some of these projects are top secret, and we can’t share just yet but stayed tuned for some exciting news coming up!

The world of energy and tech is so large and exciting that I could spend all day writing about it, but I think I’ll leave it at this for now! When you can wake up every morning and know that the work you’re doing can leave a long-lasting impact on the company, and even larger, the world, you feel pretty good! I hope that I have shown today the endless possibilities that exist in our industry.

Thanks for reading!

Dave Froese is the Energy Manager at NatureFresh™ Farms, an agricultural and greenhouse company located in Leamington, Ontario and Delta, Ohio. He is a whiz at #substainability | Youngest of a family of boys | #LetsGoYankees



Learn more about WEtech Alliance’s CleanTech initiatives:

CleanTech Academy  CleanTech Blog

Welcome to the Drone Age

Only a few years ago drones were things from Sci-Fi movies and TV shows or something that we would hear about on the evening news when reports of military events were occurring. Now only a few short years later, drones are working their was into our social fabric in ways that we would never have imagined. Drone racing, drone delivery, drone taxis, drones used in film making and real estate, for exploration, mapping and pollination. Drones are becoming an everyday presence in our society and in our future.

Check out this teaser video for the 2017 Drone Racing League World Championships that recently aired on ESPN to get an idea of how quickly this sport is growing in popularity.


Over the last year the number of certified drone pilots and startup companies have tripled in North America and the FAA projects that drone sales will exceed 5 Billion dollars within the next few years with a further projection that the drone market will create an 82 Billion dollar market by 2025 and account for 100,000 drone related direct jobs.

The future of drones, however bumpy at the moment, will create a dynamic and expanding market. Access to drones is becoming far cheaper and fast moving advances in drone technology and robotics is energizing the drone movement to an unprecedented degree. In addition to the drone technology, advances in A.I and swarm technology are opening even more doors to the drone markets, inspiring a new wave of innovation and advancement.

Swarm Mentality

Swarming is a form of programming that enables drones to work together such as birds and bees. Swarming technology allows hundreds of drones to work together to achieve a single task that a lone drone could never preform on it’s own. Advancements in A.I and swarming technology and will open new doors to an unlimited potential for inspiration and innovation. The implications of these new and combined technologies will create advances in both commercial and industrial applications and offer unique opportunities for those with imagination.

Imagine a world where drones will assist with everyday tasks without having to be controlled by an operator. A.I intelligent drones will preform the assigned tasks quickly and easily allowing the operator to focus on the final outcome of the task. Pollination of crops is one example of the uses of drones and swarm technology. Hundreds if not thousands of micro drones could be programmed to pollinate a field in very little time, offering an expedient answer to a serious current problem.

An Aerial MOB drone lands after filming a scene for “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” at a Santa Clarita ranch. Photo credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Imagine a movie set where the drones place themselves in the best angles for the shot without wasting time having to be moved or programmed by an operator.  Where multiple drones could move with the actors as they move, creating a perfect flow of vision for the director. Or perhaps a work site where drones are carrying heavy loads of materials to their assigned locations allowing the workmen to build more efficiently, at less cost and with much less chance of physical injury.

Swarm drones would work exceptionally well in area’s where there have been some form of disaster. These drones could easily and safely work together to bring building material, first aid supplies and food and water to areas that are impassable and have been severely impacted by disaster conditions.

These are only a few of the things that the future holds for us. Drones are becoming a part of our society much as the car and the airplane when they were first developed. The future is wide open and some amazing things are headed our way.  More to come.

Photo by Lilium.com

David McCall is the C.E.O of Future Evolutions Inc., a Windsor based technology company with a strong focus on drones and drone technology advancement and development for commercial and industrial use. He is also the Co-Editor of HoverBuzz Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to drone technology and sharing news and information related to drone use for commercial, industrial and recreational purposes as well as keeping it’s readers updated on new laws and regulations regarding the use of drones in Canada. As well David is the owner of XtremeBuilds.com, a locally based business with a focus on the promotion of drone racing across the country. Mr. McCall is the director of social media for FPV Canada which is Canada’s largest drone racing league and sits on the board of the Canadian Federation for Drone Racing as an adviser to the Ministry Of Transport. David is currently involved in the development of Dronetainment and Dronemusement, which are new and exciting arenas for drone technology with a focus purely on entertainment value, such as drone lighting displays, drone racing, drone battles, drone parties, drone parks and more. As well as his technical background Mr. McCall also has a background in creating local charity and community events and festivals for local organizations in need.

The Biggest Startup Money Burning Mistake

Matching the marketing message to your most desirable customer segments is an essential element to success for any startup or innovative business. Failing to do so can be very costly. The biggest startup money burning mistake – not defining your customer segments properly!

Mistake – No segmentation!

If you haven’t made any effort to define your desirable customer segments, how are you creating your advertising and marketing programs?  What is the message in your marketing?

Large corporations with large brands and large marketing budgets can do this, but a startup business usually has limited resources and negative cash flow. If your startup already has great, positive cash flow you do not need to read any further!

All others need to consider the following definition of a customer segment:

“A defined group of potential customers who share the same problem or passion and speak the same language.”


Mistake – Defining by demographics alone

Is your most desirable customer segment defined as a male in their 50’s?  Just because a person is male and in his 50’s doesn’t mean they have the same problem and speak the same language. One 53-year-old male might have a problem selecting fashionable shirts for his next vacation where another 53-year-old male wears the same shirt every day but really needs to find parts for his 68 Camaro which he is restoring himself.

The most important and most often missed piece: “share the same problem”

Check out the difference in the following two definitions of a customer segment:

1) Windsor and Essex County business owners between the age of 45 and 65 with annual revenues between $1M and $5M.

2) Windsor and Essex County business owners who are concerned that if their bookkeeper didn’t show up one day, no one else would be able to do the payroll.

The second customer segment is defined based on a common problem. And not just any problem, it should be defined by the problem that your business can solve for this customer segment.

The question to ask yourself is:

What problems do we solve for our customers? What problems are we really good at solving?

How painful is the problem for the customer? Is your product or service a “vitamin” solution or an “aspirin” solution?  Aspirin solutions are the best product or services because customers who have a headache right now will buy an aspirin. Everybody knows they should buy vitamins but without some pain, why bother?

When you start digging into the customer problems and trying to match up the features and benefits of your products and services, you may find it overwhelming because there are too many different problems and too many features and benefits.

With your limited resources and energy to focus, the least costly place to invest is on the top 2 or 3 most painful problems that you are really good at solving. In fact, if you have the ability to solve these particular problems, you should be able to make a cash flow profit.

The key trick is a bit counter intuitive:  define your customer segment as narrowly as possible and keep your product offering as simple as possible. Getting your startup to cash flow positive activities is step one. Once you get there, you can think about expanding product lines or seeking new customer segments, but trying to be all things to all people at the start is a guarantee of failure.

The other part of the definition of customer segment is “speaks the same language”.

Why is this important? It’s because successful marketing communications speak in the language of the customer.

You might believe that there is a lot of mysterious hocus-pocus that marketing firms use to develop a marketing message – there isn’t.  If you simply go and listen to the customers in your customer segment and capture in their language of how your product solves their problems, they will give you the message to share with the rest of the defined group. If this defined group speaks the same language, they will understand your marketing communications so much better!

Here is an example from a basement repair customer segment.

We defined the customer segment as married homeowners with wet basements that don’t like the musty smell. In this segment, we identified that one spouse was in charge of fixing the basement problem. After listening extensively to this customer segment, we found the perfect language for the marketing:

“Want to get your spouse off your back about fixing that smelly basement? We can help!”

In summary, the key to startup success is to narrow your customer segment (defined by a common problem or pain point). When you can communicate to them in their own language that you can solve their problem, they will ask you to solve it. Deliver the value by solving it and make some money!

P.S. If you happen to be one of those business owners concerned about your bookkeeping practices, let me know because I am working on a solution to that problem! paul@thebusinesstherapist.com

Paul Foster is the Founder & CEO of The Business Therapist. Paul’s life’s purpose is to bring more cash, freedom and happiness to independent business owners. Paul wants to learn about your toughest business challenges and frustrations so he can help you overcome them.

Colossal Solar Farm Could Power Europe

The colossal African solar farm that has been built in Morocco.

“Europe is making great progress in renewable technology! The creation of a colossal solar farm in the sunny reaches of Morocco shows the huge investment in CleanTech around the world. This massive solar farm has the potential, when fully scaled up, to provide all of Europe’s energy needs. With the sun shining 340 days a year, Morocco has great promise in sustainably powering the future of the continent!”

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern

Via BBC – July 14, 2017

The minibus crosses the vast plateau on a newly paved road. Cracked fields stretch away towards the Moroccan desert to the south. Yet the barren landscape is no longer quite as desolate as it once was. This year it became home to one of the world’s biggest solar power plants.

Hundreds of curved mirrors, each as big as a bus, are ranked in rows covering 1,400,000 sq m (15m sq ft) of desert, an area the size of 200 football fields. The massive complex sits on a sun-blasted site at the foot of the High Atlas mountains, 10km (6 miles) from Ouarzazate – a city nicknamed the door to the desert. With around 330 days of sunshine a year, it’s an ideal location.

As well as meeting domestic needs, Morocco hopes one day to export solar energy to Europe. This is a plant that could help define Africa’s – and the world’s – energy future.

Read more about the colossal African solar farm!

UPS Canada Improving Fleet Sustainability

An example of UPS's hybrid delivery vehicles!

UPS Canada is taking further steps towards sustainability by using clean technology and alternative fuels in its fleet, with an aim to have 50% of its vehicles running on alternative fuels by 2018. This shows Canadian companies’ commitment to employing CleanTech to reduce emissions and improve sustainability!

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern

Via Canadian Manufacturing – July 14, 2017

UPS announced new sustainability goals on June 27.

The company plans to add more alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles to its fleet while increasing its reliance on renewable energy sources.

The company says the goals support its commitment to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from global ground operations 12 per cent by 2025.

“Because of our size and scale, we know our commitments can shape markets, advance technologies and be a catalyst for infrastructure investments,” said David Abney, UPS chairman and CEO.

Read more about UPS Canada's sustainability initiatives

CleanTech Refinery Coming to Southwestern Ontario

An example refinery similar to that that could be set up in Southwestern Ontario

Southwestern Ontario’s attractiveness as a hub for clean technology is shown by the planning for a new biorefinery in Sarnia. S2G BioChem plans to construct a $20 million refinery to employ clean technology to produce xylitol, an alternative sweetener, more effectively! 

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern

Via Canadian Manufacturing – July 12, 2017

Another biotechnology company is setting up shop in southwestern Ontario.

West Coast-based S2G BioChem revealed plans June 20 to build a new biorefinery in Sarnia, Ont., adding another name to the city’s roster of biochemical and biofuel firms, which already includes, BioAmber Inc., Biox Corp. and Comet Biorefining Inc., among others.

The commercial-scale facility is expected to cost about $20 million and will produce low-cost xylitol from forestry and agriculture residues.

Mark Kirby, S2G BioChem’s president and CEO, said the demonstration plant will help the cleantech firm set the stage for future growth while providing feedstock suppliers in and around Sarnia with a new revenue stream.

Read more about federal investment in tidal energy turbines

CleanTech Academy: Day 6 – Envirodrone

The Deans List - A Blog by CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Intern Marcus Deans who heard from Envirodrone

Monday, July 10th – Envirodrone

Ryan Cant

Today we had the opportunity to hear from Ryan Cant, the founder of one of Windsor’s most innovative companies – Envirodrone. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in environmental & resource science from Trent University, Ryan worked for two years in private industry. He talked about how this real-life experience helped him in his future by demonstrating to him the policies companies used and the way operations were conducted. He then moved back to Windsor and gained an interest in UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Ryan Cant of Envirodrone presenting to the students of CleanTech academy.

Introduction to Envirodrone

Ryan eventually founded his own company, Envirodrone, which uses drones commercially to benefit a variety of industries. We had the chance to see one of his drones in front of him while he told us about the different aspects of his company and how he has developed it over the past two years. The company is currently working towards full release of its services, since they have had to do a lot of testing to determine the best way to operate the drones and its different capabilities.


Ryan told us a lot about the technology used in the drones; there are two main categories of drones – fixed wing and rotary. The rotary design is what most people think of when they hear the word drone, apart from a military design. The rotary drones have multiple rotors that turn like a helicopter. Envirodrone employs the fixed wing drones primarily, which look a lot more like a normal aircraft. The fixed wing drones have a longer flight endurance, so they can collect more data without having to recharge, and also can carry a heavier payload of equipment for surveying.

A close-up view of the equipment used by Envirodrone


Envirodrone is planning to use the drones mostly for agricultural surveys, since it is a major industry in our region. Farmers would be able to visualize their fields from above with high-quality and inexpensive data that would be provided by overhead drones. Ryan also told us about the six major fields which drones are being targeted towards: agriculture, aggregate (quarries and mining of rocks), construction, mining, energy (oil & gas), and geological. Drones are very useful and offer different capabilities compared to regular aircraft since they can move more slowly to collect more high-quality data, as well as flying safely at a lower level so that they can capture all of the fine details. Finally, and very importantly for the business, drones are significantly cheaper than aircraft since they do not require a pilot or aviation fuel.Ryan was a superb example to us about how far you can come in today’s world if you work hard for something you are interested in. He also conducts research at the University of Windsor, which is a great example of how private start-ups can coordinate with researchers to further technologies and achieve common aims. They are hoping to develop advanced sensors that will be superior to the currently available off the shelf systems. He was very knowledgeable about everything he talked about and we could all tell that he is truly passionate about drones. We had a great time listening to Ryan speak about Envirodrone and how it came to be!


Ryan was a superb example to us about how far you can come in today’s world if you work hard for something you are interested in. He also conducts research at the University of Windsor, which is a great example of how private start-ups can coordinate with researchers to further technologies and achieve common aims. They are hoping to develop advanced sensors that will be superior to the currently available off the shelf systems. He was very knowledgeable about everything he talked about and we could all tell that he is truly passionate about drones. We had a great time listening to Ryan speak about Envirodrone and how it came to be!


Find out what else made the Deans List in Marcus’ daily CleanTech Academy recaps:

DAY 1  DAY 2  DAY 3   DAY 4   DAY 5   DAY 6

Marcus Deans currently attends Académie Ste Cécile International School in Windsor and is looking forward to learning more about the technology and business world as part of WEtech Alliance. Outside of school, Marcus volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society, the WindsorEssex Community Foundation, and the City of Windsor. He has also served in several leadership positions at youth-run companies as part of Junior Achievement. Marcus also enjoys science and has ranked internationally in youth science competitions as part of Team Canada.

He’ll be with us throughout the summer and will be reporting on his experience in our inaugural CleanTech Academy class through his CleanTech Blog posts.


GO Train Network Electrification

Ontario’s government is aiming to electrify Toronto’s GO train network using hydrogen fuel cell technology, demonstrating the government’s commitment to clean technology and desire to reduce emissions! Assessments are being conducted with the aim of using the technology for express rail by 2025.

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern

Via Canadian Manufacturing – July 9, 2017GO train electrification could have broad implications for our province

The Ontario government is looking into using hydrogen-powered trains to replace the diesel locomotives that currently ferry commuters across the Greater Toronto Area.

The province’s Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca, was at GO Transit’s Willowbrook yard in Etobicoke June 15 to kick off the environmental assessment process for the major infrastructure project.

“Electrification is an important step forward for regional rail in Ontario,” Del Duca said. “It is critical that we get it right.”

The push to electrify the Toronto area rail system is part of a $21.3 billion project Queen’s Park says will convert the commuter-focused GO Transit network into a regional rapid transit system. Trains will run more frequently both in and out of Toronto—and they’re expected to do so on electrical power as the province pares down on greenhouse gas emissions and noxious diesel fumes damaging to human health.

Read more about federal investment in tidal energy turbines

CleanTech Academy: Day 5 – Detroit River Boat Tour

The Deans List - A Blog by CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Intern Marcus Deans on the Boat Tour

Saturday, July 8th – Detroit River Boat TourBoat Tour Picutres

Today we went on an incredible boat tour of the Detroit River and had a unique opportunity to see both banks of the river up close. We launched from Festival Plaza, and quickly sped away from downtown Detroit and Windsor, headed downriver. The tall buildings and towers of Detroit quickly receded into single storey buildings and plazas as we left the core. On Detroit’s bank, we saw the first big change – from commercial and residential buildings into industrial. Piers for bulk cargo and construction aggregate appeared. As we moved closer to the northern bank of the river, we started to see the black, heavily industrialized landscape that is Zug Island.

Zug Island

Our boat sailed just 300m from the massive U.S. Steel plant, directly past the huge blast furnaces and docks. As we moved past, the air became noxious with sulphur and smelled absolutely awful. It is almost incomprehensible that such heavy industry is located near four million people. The plant pumps out all kinds of substances from lead to smoke to heavy chemicals. Zug Island is even responsible for the mysterious hum we can hear from the Canadian side!We Were able to view Fighting Island during the Boat Tour

Fighting Island

Going downriver past Zug Island, and towards Fighting Island, relieved everyone. Even though today Fighting Island is beautiful and full of greenery, hosting ecological tours, it has a chequered history. In the past, chemical companies used Fighting Island as a dumping ground for sodium carbonate, lye, and baking soda! The island was incredibly polluted due to the lack of oversight from authorities at the time, and the disregard for the environment that remained common until the mid 20th century. Eventually, BASF, another chemical company, bought the island. They rehabilitated the entire island so that now it is one of the premier ecological sites in the area.

Homeward Journey

As we moved further down the river, we heard more from the guides about the wildlife on the banks. They also talked about some of the different wildlife within the river,  and we glimpsed several different bird species. The ride back upriver along the Canadian bank was much more relaxing, with the industry of Detroit being replaced with the residential, agricultural, and parkland areas of Windsor & Lasalle. Overall, the boat tour was a very relaxing yet informative tour down the river and offered a unique perspective that we cannot normally experience!

Find out what else made the Deans List in Marcus’ daily CleanTech Academy recaps:

DAY 1  DAY 2  DAY 3   DAY 4   DAY 5   DAY 6

Marcus Deans currently attends Académie Ste Cécile International School in Windsor and is looking forward to learning more about the technology and business world as part of WEtech Alliance. Outside of school, Marcus volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society, the WindsorEssex Community Foundation, and the City of Windsor. He has also served in several leadership positions at youth-run companies as part of Junior Achievement. Marcus also enjoys science and has ranked internationally in youth science competitions as part of Team Canada.

He’ll be with us throughout the summer and will be reporting on his experience in our inaugural CleanTech Academy class through his CleanTech Blog posts.


Federal Government Funds Tidal Energy

The turbine bieng used in the Bay of Fundy tidal energy project

“Canada’s federal government has allocated $1 million for further research into tidal energy in the Bay of Fundy, which has the capability to generate significant power through its massive tides. Our government’s commitment to clean technology allows our country’s continued leadership in the sector and facilitates further growth in the sector! Combined with renewable technologies being employed across the country and our extensive use of hydroelectricity, these projects bring us closer and closer to complete energy sustainability!

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern

Via CBC – July 8, 2017

The federal government will bolster a project aimed at addressing challenges in harnessing the crushing tides of the Bay of Fundy and beyond to create renewable energy, Canada’s natural resources minister said Thursday.

Jim Carr said the federal government will contribute $1 million to the project led by the Offshore Energy Research Association, which will look at current knowledge gaps in tidal power.

“Few countries in the world have the advantages we do when it comes to tidal power. Bordered by three oceans and with the longest coastline of any nation, Canada understands the potential of tides as a source of electricity,” Carr said during a news conference at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, N.S.

“Canada is a leader in tidal power technology, but for all of our expertise, there are still gaps in our knowledge — still unanswered questions — that we have to fill and to answer.”

Read more about federal investment in tidal energy turbines

Government Invests in Reducing Auto Emissions

Curbing auto emissions like these is highly beneficial for the planet and helps lessen the threat of climate change.

The federal government is providing almost $12 million to reduce emissions from cars and to boost the development and performance of hybrid, electric, and fuel-efficient vehicles. Over $5 million in investment is directed for Ontario, with $3.4 million going to local Windsor company Tyromer Inc., which uses recycled scrap rubber to seal car windows and doors! These clean technologies will improve the sustainability of automotive production and allow us to continue to produce vehicles in Canada without damaging our environment!

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern


The federal government is providing up to $11.9 million for six projects which will support the development of lighter, more fuel-efficient cars and improve the performance of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada says up to 80 jobs will be created in B.C., Ontario and Quebec because of the investment.

$11.5 million of the funding will be allocated through the Automotive Supplier Innovation Program, and will benefit the following companies:

  • Datec Coating Corporation in Mississauga, Ontario: ($1.3 million) Developing technologies that will improve heating management systems for vehicle cabins, lithium-ion batteries and engine fluids.
  • Tyromer Inc. in Windsor, Ontario: ($3.4 million) Using recycled scrap rubber to seal car windows and doors.
  • Eurospec Manufacturing Inc. in Newmarket, Ontario: ($1.7 million) Developing an automotive seat adjustment mechanism.
  • Loop Energy Inc. in Burnaby, British Columbia: ($787,000) Developing a fuel cell.
  • TM4 Inc. in Boucherville, Quebec: ($4 million) Developing an electric engine for light trucks.
  • Advanced Technology Emission Solutions Inc. in Hamilton, Ontario: ($272,000) Developing technology for catalytic converters, devices used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from car tailpipes.

Read more about federal investment in reducing auto emissions

CleanTech Academy: Day 4 at CEI and CS Wind

The Deans List - A Blog by Cleantech Academy Graduate and WEtech Intern Marcus Deans

Friday, July 7th – CEI & CS Wind

Centre for Engineering Innovation (CEI)

We started our day today by heading to the Centre for Engineering Innovation (CEI) at the University of Windsor, just across from the University of Windsor EPICentre. We first heard from Dr. Lindsay Miller, who gave us a short presentation on the advantages and struggles associated with renewable energy. For example, renewable energy is called intermittent, meaning that it is only available at certain times, like when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. This can be difficult to link with our energy demand, since humans follow a steady cycle in which energy usage is highest midday and lowest during the night (which happens to be when the wind blows the most). Another problem is that renewable energy can require many resources, such as solar which requires huge amounts of water to keep clean and therefore operating at peak performance.

The CEI & Energy Storage

One of the crucial aspects that needs to be solved for renewable energy to be effective is energy storage. Conventional batteries often use far too many resources and can be inefficient. It was extremely interesting to hear that the University of Windsor has pioneered a new method of energy storage. Reserachers designed balloons that store air under high pressure underwater. The water keeps constant pressure on the air balloons, so that when the valves are opened the air comes rushing out and can therefore be used to regenerate the electricity. These are problems that will need effective solutions before renewable energy can completely replace our existing technologies, and it is clear that the University of Windsor intends to play a major role in this process.

CleanTEch students at the CEI

CEI – Turbulence and Energy Lab

We then visited the Turbulence and Energy lab, where we met with Dr. David Ting and his graduate students. We learned about the research they conduct in the lab and all of the different ideas they are testing. They perform different tests and experiments that enable us to better design systems like wind turbines and energy storage. We viewed the huge wind tunnel they have there, which is used to test different designs and their aerodynamic efficiency. Some of the graduate students fired up the wind tunnel for us and demonstrated how they tested one of the aerofoils they made, with a camera positioned above the aerofoil to observe the interactions. It was super cool to see everything the Turbulence and Energy lab does and it was great to see some of the most interesting research being conducted at the University of Windsor CEI!

CS Wind

We then took a Transit Windsor bus on a short trip to CS Wind Canada’s manufacturing plant on the east side of the city, close to Tecumseh. We met with Paolo Piunno, one of CS Wind’s project manager. First, we heard more about CS Wind, a global company with five manufacturing sites across the world. The plant in Windsor is one of CS Wind’s most productive facilities and has the capability to build over 700 towers yearly. One of the most surprising things we learned is that the turbines themselves are not produced within the facility! Instead, the towers are manufactured here, while the turbines are shipped in from different manufacturing facilities and different companies.

The plant started operating in 2011 to provide towers for projects across North America and even the world. Ontario uses many of the towers locally as part of Ontario’s initiatives to increase renewable energy. We use the towers to create the large wind farms we all see around Chatham and Belle River. The plant is simply massive and encompasses many acres of land. CS Wind chose the site based on its proximity to highways (just in front of the plant), railways (which run at the back of the plant), and rivers. The plant has a very good operating record and celebrated two years with no safety infractions, despite currently producing hundreds of towers every year!

CS Wind Plant TourCleanTech Academy Students at CEI & CS WInd

“Black Tower” Building

After Paolo finished his presentation, we went on a truly remarkable tour of the plant floor itself. It was simply incredible to be able to actually stand on a functioning factory floor. We were amidst all of the towers being assembled and could literally touch the huge components. The plant was closed when we visited so we were able to get a firsthand view of everything. Workers make the towers using specific steps: steel plates are cleaned, curved, and beveled, then joined together. Technicians then attach these large section piece by piece to make a tapered tower. All of this goes on in the gigantic “black tower” building. The towers leave this section of the plant with a black finish.

“White Tower” Building

The towers then move into the “white tower” building, which finishes the construction process. A huge oven bakes the towers to finish the construction. A technician then applies epoxy, followed by a urethane coating. While that may sound very complicated, Paolo explained that it is basically sunscreen. This allows the epoxy and paint last longer, which saves money and time. One of the critical parts of this coating process is maintaining a certain temperature. This ensures that the material sticks to the tower properly. The whole backing process has to restarted if the temperatures deviate too far from 140 degrees Celsius! Natural gas also powers all of the plant’s heating elements, which was very interesting. This links back to Union Gas, and how a relatively clean fossil fuel can facilitate our use of renewable energy!

Overall – CEI & CS Wind

In summary, our tour of the turbulence & energy lab, as well as CS Wind Canada, was remarkable. Researchers are developing great renewable technology like wind turbines and aerofoils at the CEI, including very interesting wind tunnel testing. Meanwhile, CS Wind Canada is using these technologies in real life at their manufacturing plant, helping Ontario transition to a more sustainable energy generation system. It was a completely novel experience to see both the research and practical aspects of these technologies!

Find out what else made the Deans List in Marcus’ daily CleanTech Academy recaps:

DAY 1  DAY 2  DAY 3   DAY 4   DAY 5   DAY 6

Marcus Deans currently attends Académie Ste Cécile International School in Windsor and is looking forward to learning more about the technology and business world as part of WEtech Alliance. Outside of school, Marcus volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society, the WindsorEssex Community Foundation, and the City of Windsor. He has also served in several leadership positions at youth-run companies as part of Junior Achievement. Marcus also enjoys science and has ranked internationally in youth science competitions as part of Team Canada.

He’ll be with us throughout the summer and will be reporting on his experience in our inaugural CleanTech Academy class through his CleanTech Blog posts.

$8 Million Federal CleanTech Investment

Example solar panels in which the investment in solar crystals could benefit

The federal government continues to demonstrate its support for CleanTech by announcing almost $8 million in investment for three Ontario companies, ranging from solar power to fertilizer derived from biowaste to the optimization of cloud computing’s energy requirements!

Marcus Deans, CleanTech Academy Graduate & WEtech Alliance Intern

Via CLEANTECH CANADA – July 7, 2017

The federal government announced $7.85 million worth of Ontario cleantech investment on June 19, for projects focusing on solar power, cloud computing and biofertilizers.

These projects are being funded through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which works with Canadian companies to bring early-stage clean technologies to market.

The following projects will be receiving federal funds:

  • $5.5 million for Ranovus Corp. of Ottawa, which is exploring ways to reduce the amount of electricity required for companies to store information in the cloud.
  • $1.45 million for Heliene Inc. of Sault Ste. Marie, which develops mono-crystalline solar modules.
  • $903,000 for BioLINE Corp. of London, which has found ways to take the biowaste from mushroom farms and convert it into fertilizer.

Read more about federal investment in Ontario cleantech