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Israeli maker of ecofriendly concrete among 12 winners of BloombergNEF award

ECOncrete, an environmental infrastructure startup, named with other 2021 BNEF Pioneers, a title conferred on early stage firms pursuing ‘exciting low-carbon opportunities’

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Instead of building concrete blocks, which are bad for marine ecology, damaging the fish, oyster and coral ecosystems,  ECOncrete uses a technique known as bio-mimicry – concrete products which embed the shapes and textures of natural systems (YouTube screenshot)
Instead of building concrete blocks, which are bad for marine ecology, damaging the fish, oyster and coral ecosystems, ECOncrete uses a technique known as bio-mimicry – concrete products which embed the shapes and textures of natural systems (YouTube screenshot)

ECOncrete, an Israeli environmental infrastructure startup that has developed high quality, cost effective sustainable concrete for building ecologically friendly coastal and marine infrastructure projects, has been named by BloombergNEF as one of 12 2021 BNEF Pioneers.

The title is conferred on “early-stage companies that are pursuing exciting and important low-carbon opportunities,” the program organizers said in a statement. The program was set up more than a decade ago to highlight “important, pioneering” ecofriendly innovations.

“The winners were selected as their innovations fill important gaps in optimizing long-haul freight, making sustainable materials, tracking greenhouse gases, valuing carbon sinks and reducing energy and chemical use,” the statement said.

Instead of building concrete blocks, which are bad for marine ecology, damaging the fish, oyster and coral ecosystems, ECOncrete uses a technique known as bio-mimicry – concrete products that embed the shapes and textures of natural systems.

ECOncrete products are designed with tiny holes so fish and other marine flora and fauna can live and grow around and within the structures. The material is eco-friendly, stronger than concrete and blends in with its surroundings, and is thus less intrusive to marine ecosystems. In 2019 the firm was selected as one of nine Israeli technologies mentioned in TIME magazine’s 100 Best Inventions ranking.

“Concrete is the second-most consumed material in the world, is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions, and is used in about 70% of our coastal infrastructure,” said Ido Sella, the CEO of ECOncrete, in the statement. “As we adapt to rising seas and increased coastal development under more resource stress, ECOncrete provides accessible technology to simultaneously protect assets and revive marine ecosystems. ECOncrete provides an unprecedented opportunity to build environmental solutions into traditional infrastructure by creating habitat, doubling biodiversity, and storing carbon dioxide.”

Last month, marine biologist Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, 45, who co-founded ECOncrete in 2012 with Sella, died in an electric scooter accident.

In 2021, BNEF called for applications from companies, non-profits and projects that addressed three climate-tech innovation areas: managing and optimizing long-haul freight; advancing materials and techniques for sustainable products, and monitoring and understanding the changing planet. A “wildcard” category was also added.

The competition received over 250 applications from 36 countries. A team of lead analysts at BNEF evaluated candidates against three criteria: the potential impact on greenhouse gas emissions and the planet; the degree of technology innovation and novelty; and the likelihood of adoption.

The 2021 BNEF Pioneers are:

Challenge 1: Managing and optimizing long-haul freight

  • Convoy (US) provides a digital freight network and moves thousands of truckloads around the United States each day through its optimized connected network of carriers, saving money for shippers and eliminating carbon waste.
  • Nautilus Labs (US) advances the efficiency of ocean commerce through artificial intelligence. It provides a predictive decision-support solution that drives sustainability and profitability in global maritime shipping.
  • Ontruck (Spain) is a digital transportation company that combines automation and machine learning to drive out waste in the logistics process. Ontruck offers an efficient and low-carbon solution to move freight, helping shippers to reduce transportation costs, increasing earnings for carriers, and removing carbon emissions generated from empty trucks.

Challenge 2: Advancing materials and techniques for sustainable products

  • Cemvita Factory (US) engineers microbes that use carbon dioxide or methane as a feedstock for the production of carbon-negative industrial chemicals. These chemicals are used by oil and gas, chemical, mining and aerospace companies that seek to apply nature-inspired technologies for reducing their carbon footprint.
  • Pyrowave (Canada) electrifies chemical processes in the circular economy of plastics. Pyrowave uses microwave technology to supply the chemical industry with recycled raw materials that are drop-in substitutes for virgin chemicals.
  • Via Separations (US) targets US energy consumption that is wasted each year through the process of separating chemicals, by electrifying energy-intensive steps in chemical production.

Challenge 3: Monitoring and understanding our changing planet

  • Pachama (US) uses machine learning with satellite imaging to measure carbon captured in forests. Pachama brings the latest technology in remote sensing, satellite imaging and AI to the world of forest carbon in order to enable forest conservation and restoration at scale.
  • Planet (US) provides global, daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions to better manage risk across various sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, energy and natural resources.
  • QLM Technology (UK) offers its quantum technology to provide an understanding of greenhouse gas emissions in an affordable, accurate, scalable way using camera systems that visualize and quantify emissions as they occur.

Wildcards:

  • 75F (US) is an IoT-based building management system using smart sensors and controls to make commercial buildings more efficient, comfortable and healthier.
  • ECOncrete (Israel) provides technology for coastal and marine infrastructure – increasing concrete strength and durability, while creating ecological value and an active carbon sink.
  • Pivot Bio (US) makes nitrogen-producing microbial products that can replace the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer for cereal crops, giving farmers a crop nutrition solution to achieve more consistent yields and improve air and water quality.

BloombergNEF, an arm of Bloomberg, the financial information and news service, is a strategic research provider that covers global commodity markets and the disruptive technologies that are driving the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“For the last decade, the BNEF Pioneers award has been essential in highlighting exciting innovations in solar, wind, storage, smart grid and electric vehicles, to name a few,” said Claire Curry, selection committee co-chair and head of digital industry research at BloombergNEF. “By focusing on specific themes each year where technology innovation is sorely needed, we hope that the competition will continue to shine a light on important, pioneering innovations.”

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