Tough & Flexible Biodegradable Polymer from Fermented Hemp
Transforming Industrial Waste into Clean Water, Air & Biofuel utilizing Microbes
Shepherdess Biotech is a Canadian startup based primarily out of professor Yaser Dahman's biochemical engineering lab at Ryerson University in Toronto. It is composed of a diverse and driven team of scientists and entrepreneurs. Along with Yaser, it is co-directed by Adam Ash and Jordan Ash, who are in part behind noospheer, a software company chiseling at open problems in computer science. Shepherdess' intention is to radically upgrade the world's fuel and plastic - both how it's made and what it's made of.
Imagine, retrofitted smokestacks emitting clean air and fuel... To achieve this vision, Shepherdess has teamed up with another Ontario company, Pond Technologies. Pond has developed industrial-scale photobioreactors in which algae feed on pollution (such as smokestack flue gas or tailing pond waste). The algae grow rapidly under optimized light and nutritional conditions. Then, via biological and chemical processes - fermentation and transesterification - Shepherdess reactors convert whole algae into biodiesel and butanol (ethanol's more energetic cousin).
In tandem, Shepherdess is developing a biodegradable polymer from the trusty hemp plant. The plastic is a naturally occurring polyester (polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA). Hydrolyzed hemp hurd provides a sugary substrate for biosynthesis of the PHA, while hemp fibre may be added to form a remarkably strong composite. The material is sturdy under high temperature and ultraviolet light, yet breaks down when exposed to bacteria in soil and marine systems. Hemp-derived PHA is a serious contender for unseating petroleum-derived plastic, helping to alleviate the global litter crisis.
Shepherdess Biotech formed in the summer of 2016. However, it builds off many years of research led by Yaser Dahman. Throughout 2017, we have been working diligently in the lab to develop processes which achieve the desired properties for our fuel and plastic. In early 2018, we will launch a pilot facility in Toronto to serve as the stepping stone between the lab and worldwide production.
We cherish our pale blue dot and hope to preserve it. The planet faces a litany of environmental challenges, but solutions do exist. However, scaling up a scientific process from the lab to the world requires a team of dedicated and tenacious people with a wide range of skills. Shepherdess Biotech is that team and we are excited to prove it!
Feel free to drop us a line at team(at)shepherdess(d0t)ca