NanoFreeze was created in 2018 by students from the Universidad de Los Andes with the aim of changing a polluting industry, refrigeration, into a sustainable one for the planet. The company is made up of designers, scientists, biodesign-savvy engineers, and professionals who believe design and innovation are critical to creating cleaner, more energy-efficient refrigeration. The company seeks to rethink refrigeration by creating a technology that combines design with natural thermodynamic principles.
Isabel Pulido, Diana Paola Camacho and Laura Camila Calderón, are the founders of this company that in 2020 took advantage of various opportunities such as the growth of the cold chain market. This became a worldwide emergency due to the transport of COVID samples and also vaccines.
NanoFreeze was introduced to Rising UP in Spain that same year and is now part of their portfolio. Rising UP in Spain by ICEX-Invest in Spain is a program focused on attracting foreign entrepreneurs who want to settle and grow in Spain. The selected startups receive facilities to develop their project in Spain.
What importance does it have for you to have been born in the bosom of the university?
It is important because, as designers, we were able to learn about biotechnology and nanotechnology, which was a new universe for us that aroused all our passion and motivation. Today we know that we want to dedicate ourselves to transforming industries with science and design.
Also, today the university is carrying out the patent processes, which is very good for us. At the time NanoFreeze was born we did not have the capital to carry out the protection of our invention.
Why should these institutions support entrepreneurship?
For several reasons. Universities must support these ventures because it is the students themselves who have a disruptive and winning idea and who do not have all the credibility tools in the market. Nor do they usually have visibility, access to the market or financing and, surely, an institution such as a university can help achieve them.
How were the investigations prior to your birth?
Initially, a field investigation was carried out where a town without electricity in Colombia was visited. In this investigation it was found that the most serious problem of not having access to electricity was the preservation of food. Everything was damaged in a matter of hours. Based on this, the initiative to create sustainable refrigeration arose. It was then that research began in scientific articles on microorganisms that had particular behaviors that could be applied to the cooling industry.
In this investigation, a bacterium was found that could freeze water thanks to proteins that act as nucleating agents. Based on this discovery, a second investigation was carried out to understand where we could obtain the isolated proteins of this bacterium.
After obtaining the isolated proteins, the experimental research phase began. In it, freezing experiments were carried out at different temperatures and the engineering department was contacted to create a novel bio-nanotechnology that could be scalable in the market.
Thanks to these bioengineering processes, it was possible to create the new bio-nanocomposite that manages to freeze at high temperatures.
What micro organism did you discover in them?
Pseudomonas, bacteria capable of freezing water.
What implications does it have that medicines can be transported to remote areas?
Mainly, that basic necessities, such as vaccines or medicines, could be brought to rural populations that are usually low-income populations. This would imply the possibility of providing health and quality of life to populations in need. Also, this would prevent the loss of lives of people and children living in these areas.
Specifically in the case of vaccines, immunizing the majority of the population makes it possible to reduce the probability of a serious development of the disease or virus generated by the pathogen. Likewise, generating herd immunity in the world population would reduce the probability of mutations that generate new strains of the microorganism in question and therefore would prevent new diseases or highly contagious viruses. This would imply the well-being not only of rural populations, but of the world population.
What kind of areas are those? What must be taken into account to reach them?
Rural areas mainly in third world countries. They are usually remote areas of warm temperature where there is jungle or desert-type vegetation, and humid, rocky or mountainous soils. These areas are difficult to access since there is no road infrastructure to get there. In many cases the only way to get there is by motorcycle or on foot.
This situation is what makes the tours extensive and can take up to more than four days. Therefore, to bring refrigerated elements to this type of area, it is necessary to have a transport container that offers a stable cold chain that lasts for long periods without the need for electrical energy to function. Likewise, taking into account that in many cases it is necessary to walk, the type of container cannot be very heavy or bulky, nor can it be uncomfortable to load, since this can directly affect the carrier.
Your first application is a refrigerator specialized in the storage and transport of vaccines. What reception has it had?
Our first application was a container for vaccines which had an ergonomic backpack to carry two containers at the same time. These containers managed to keep cold for up to 72 hours thanks to their cylindrical geometry and their cooling system, which used our bio-nanotechnology to cool for long periods of time without power.
This solution was developed until a functional prototype (TRL 5). When carrying out a market study, we found a new opportunity in which this solution could migrate to a solution that could cover not only vaccines, but also food, medicines, biologicals and even flowers. This market opportunity would lead us to enter the market in the short term and, at the same time, to cover a broader need for industries that need refrigerated transport and generate a much broader impact at an environmental level.
What other apps are you working on?
Today NanoFreeze has developed Ice Packs that contain its bio-nanotechnology. These Ice Packs freeze at higher temperatures, have a six-month shelf life, and can be disposed of as plant fertilizer. They are also long-lasting; They keep up to 84 hours.
The second product that we have developed are collapsible containers to transport food, medicines and biologicals. These containers reduce their height by 55%, which has a direct impact on the cost of transportation, and achieve economic savings for customers of up to 40%. The products are made of a material that directly replaces expanded polystyrene. It is 100% recyclable, has a useful life of up to five years and circular economy is managed once its useful life is fulfilled.
Likewise, we work on the development of other solutions such as panels or refrigerated packaging for flowers, food and medicines. These are useful for exports or delivery to users of the products.
Who are your clients? What is the business model?
NanoFreeze clients are companies that are responsible for transporting perishable products in different industries such as pharmaceuticals, floriculture, food, chemicals, veterinary, health, among others. These clients can be transport logistics operators or the same companies from the aforementioned industries that are in charge of their refrigerated transport operation.
NanoFreeze's business model consists of creating disruptive, innovative, and sustainable solutions for the refrigeration and cold chain. Thus, our key activities are the production of bio-nanotechnology, the design of cold chain equipment and the study of customer needs to create new products.
In addition, within these key activities is the packaging of the Ice Packs and the industrialization of the products that are designed. This is why our key allies are the maquilas that are in charge of packing the Ice Packs, industrially producing the cold chain equipment, and also the logistics transport operators that take the product from the maquila to the country of sale.
Why do you want to settle in Spain?
Spain is a country that has a high volume of exports of perishable products that require refrigeration and therefore has a significant global participation in this market. Likewise, this is a country that could open the doors to a country that has the same vision as NanoFreeze, based on environmental sustainability. We believe that large industries would welcome the products we offer. In addition, Spain is one of the leading countries in nanotechnology, which could strengthen the research and development of new technologies for refrigeration within our company.
What has ICEX's Rising UP Spain given you in this incursion?
Minority breakout sessions have grounded NanoFreeze's vision of entering this new territory; They have also given us certain tools that can be useful at some point in the marketing of products in this territory. The program also offers the possibility of having work facilities, which is very useful for us.
What other countries or regions would you like to reach?
NanoFreeze is interested in entering the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These are markets that have a high participation in the cold chain.
Regarding the future, what plans do you have? What are your goals for billing, financing, growth...?
The company is looking to grow in Mexico initially. There are prospects for clients who would be able to contribute to the exponential growth of the company with the sale of Ice Packs and containers.
By 2022 we expect to sell up to almost $300,000. By 2023 we hope to bring new products to the market, such as refrigerated packaging and panels, and also start operating in the United States, so that for this year it is projected to sell up to USD$1,500,000. As of 2024, the company expects to market these same products, but carrying out its expansion plan, growing towards different territories where the market need can be validated.
To carry out this plan of expansion and launch of new products, NanoFreeze is looking for USD1,000,000 to be invested mainly in setting up refrigerant production plants in the aforementioned territories, strengthening the work team, commercial area (sales and post sale) of the company, and set up their own laboratory facilities.
REDACTADO POR: Indra Kishinchand López