Last month we continued to prepare for construction of our biogas plant – clarifying remaining questions and concerns related to permits; working through the logistics of organic waste supplies; solidifying our fertilizer plans; and articulating our specific requirements to be included in the construction contract.
Co-op Development & AGM
At the end of the first quarter we began planning for the 2015 ZooShare Annual General Meeting – more news about this will coming to the inbox of members in the next 7-10 days.
We closed our offering once we reached the $2.2 million target – which only served to increase market demand for ZooShare bonds. Since we began taking names and pledges for a waiting list, we have 82 people and at least $375,000 committed if ZooShare opens up the investment opportunity further. If you would like to get on our official waiting list, please fill out the form here. Make sure to check the “Yes, I’m already registered as a member” box to avoid filling in information you already sent to us.
Renewable Energy Approval (REA)
We had 3 calls with reviewers from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and also hosted them, together with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, at the site of our biogas plant in order to give everyone a clearer idea of how our plans will environmentally affect the site. Discussions continue to be open and productive, and many of the questions at this stage seem to be about clarifying details rather than larger questions requiring further studies. We believe we are still on track to receive our REA by the end of May, however, the ball is in the Ministry’s court for now and we continue to work with them to ensure a timely approval.
As you may recall, at the outset of the project, ZooShare secured a Letter of Intent for the full supply of organic waste (14,000 tonnes) with Canada’s largest grocery retailer. Following this, we executed a contract for the first 4,000 tonnes in June 2013 for waste to be supplied from stores equipped with on-site mills (to liquify the waste at the store). We have been working with our partners on the second contract (for the remaining 10,000 tonnes) as it needs to come from a different part of the company since not all stores are equipped with the mills. Complicating the situation somewhat is that there is a different waste management company contracted to pick-up and manage these organics, meaning more players at the negotiating table. Furthermore, the organic waste market in Ontario is quickly evolving, slowing down each party’s ability to forecast future prices for transporting and processing waste. This past month, we continued to meet with and talk through the remaining issues with our partners so that we can execute the second contract, which is a pre-requisite to ZooShare initiating construction of the facility.
Digestate (fertilizer) sale/disposal
Digestate is the nutrient-rich substance produced by our biogas plant that can be used as a fertilizer. The digestate is a slurry when it first comes out of the biogas plant, containing both liquid and solid components. The solids are what we have proposed to put in bags and sell back to you and other gardeners. For the last 9 months, we have been working on ways to maximize the value of the liquid component and reduce the transportation costs. We have made good progress on two fronts: 1. A farmer nearby the Zoo has expressed tentative interest in taking the digestate for his crops, which would mean zero cost for disposal but also zero revenues; 2. A memorandum of understanding is in place with a BC-based technology company that can provide equipment to ZooShare that would process the liquid into concentrated fertilizer and clean water. This technology would have no up-front cost to ZooShare but would require sharing of revenues until the technology is paid off, approximately 6 years. We are hopeful that option 2 will work out as it will mean greater revenues for the project, but are planning on option 1 to be conservative.
Events and Media
The media loves you as much as they love Zoo poo! In March, the media was excited to share the news that together, we raised $2.2M. Since then, we have also had interviews PRI World, BioCycle Magazine and the writer of an accounting textbook for 1st-year university students, who is featuring ZooShare as a business case for alternative financing methods.
We also attended Earth Day at the Zoo and Earth Week in the financial district, as well as having a booth in the Social Enterprise Zone at the OCE Discovery Conference.
Zoo-biogas is heating up!
In early April, our two student-interns from Seneca College submitted their final report on the biogas prospects of 10 zoos based in the United States. Their report examined the feasibility of creating similar-sized biogas plants like the one we’re building here in Toronto. The report will allow us to confidently approach other Zoos in the US to discuss potential partnership. Initial introductory emails have already been sent to the 10 zoos identified in the study, and we look forward to providing future updates on this pursuit.
We also recently connected with the Detroit Zoo, which has initiated a biogas project of their own. The Detroit project differs from ours in that they are only digesting zoo manure and waste produced at the Zoo, and the power will not be sold to the grid, but instead used for internal operations. We’re very excited that the market is developing and interest is growing.