Israeli startup ECOncrete recently completed a $1 million private placement with a small group of investors in preparation for expanding to Europe and the US in 2016. ECOncrete is an ecological startup that develops solutions based on the use of environmentally friendly concrete for construction of marine infrastructure, such as ports, marinas, breakwaters, piers, and beach infrastructure.
ECOncrete's products are based on unique concrete mixtures that significantly reduce ecological footprints, or in other words, facilitate a kind of environmentally friendly construction. The entrepreneurs who founded the company say that these types of concrete are friendly to fish and marine vegetation because of their ph level, which is substantially lower than that of the regular concrete hitherto used in marine infrastructure.
Marine biologists Dr. Ido Sella (CTO) and Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel (CEO and chief scientist) founded ECOncrete in 2012. The venture obtained an initial $400,000 investment from the Azouri brothers, who also invest in environmentally friendly construction. Perkol-Finkel said that besides fish-friendly concrete mixtures, the company's products make possible a kind of green home building - for fish.
"In addition to developing more durable concrete mixtures, we have invested in the texture of the products themselves, such as holes and places of concealment that facilitate reproduction and nesting zones, thereby strengthening the ability of a wide variety of species to live in them," Perkol-Finkel told "Globes." "We tested these products for three years, and found that they become like a natural boulder in the sea. They are covered with rich marine vegetation and sea creatures, without detracting from good, durable, strong, and sustainable infrastructure."
ECOncrete is currently completing the registration of its patent for the technology on which its products are based. The entrepreneurs say that their products' effectiveness has been proven in a number of ventures in the polynum port in Haifa and the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York: "In the case of Haifa, we doubled the variety of species living near the units we supplied. These were antifers designed for breakwaters, harbour floors, and other uses. Over the years, the marine wildlife strengthens them by adding a biological layer that protects the concrete from ions originating in the sea and various pollutants that weaken the concrete. This biological layer also prevents erosion of the structure, and reduces the need to maintain it," Perkol-Finkel says.
A new office in the US
ECOncrete, a new company, current has only a few employees. Since it was founded, it has been testing the viability and effectiveness of the products it offers, among other things with the advice of expert concrete consultants. According to the entrepreneurs, the just-completed financing round will enable them to open an office in the US in the coming year in an effort to bolster the company's involvement in a number of huge North American marine infrastructure ventures. At the same time, the company plans to cooperate with a leading US concrete molds company in the commercialization of the technology it has developed, and to progress to regular production of the products. "I would be very glad if our products were used in the two private ports to be built in Ashdod and Haifa in the coming years. At the same time, these plans received permits several years ago, and there is still no regulation requiring the inclusion in these ventures of the elements we offer. It's all a matter of regulation, and things move slowly in such matter," Perkol-Finkel said.
The environmentally friendly marine concrete mixtures offered by ECOncrete cost 2-7% more than the usual concrete mixtures hitherto used in every marine infrastructure venture. "These are very reasonable rates that make it possible to make back the investment by saving on future maintenance costs," Perkol-Finkel explains. "In countries that have regulation in these matters, such an investment significantly reduces, and even prevents, environmental fines to which companies involved in building such infrastructure are exposed."
Together with the completion of its financing round, ECOncrete recently won first place in the 2015 Entrepreneurship in the World Youth Science and Technology Innovation Contest in Shanghai. Last year, the company was named startup of the year by the 8200 Alumni Association.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 25, 2015
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