Search impact stories
Video Content: 
0

Reclaiming the future

At a glance
Where

Thunder Bay, Ontario

What

Environmental reclamation company

What sets them apart

Cleans soil on site using natural microorganisms rather than chemicals

Link to Mitacs

Founder was Accelerate intern in 2013

It was April 2014 and Miranda was approaching the end of her PhD in environmental biotechnology at Lakehead University. “It was a scary time; careers in academia were hard to come by,” she explained. “The only other option seemed to be to move to a big city to work for a biotech company. But I was committed to staying in Thunder Bay.”

Her friend and colleague, Amber Jarvinen, approached her about the possibility of using bacteria to clean up oil and chemical spills. Amber had founded a small environmental start-up and was looking for a partner with expertise in environmental biology.

The big launch

While completing a Mitacs Accelerate internship, Miranda took a leap of faith and joined the new venture, BioNorth Solutions, a reclamation company focused on “cleaning” land contaminated with heavy metals, oils, acids and cyanide.

But starting a business is complex. To help her navigate, Miranda contacted the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission and learned about business plans, cash flows, projections and more.

The partners wanted to ensure that BioNorth offered a unique service that set them apart from their competitors. They conducted hundreds of hours of research on the reclamation industry and talked to suppliers and potential clients in the forestry and mining industries.

Miranda says that her Mitacs Accelerate internship with the Canada Malting Company played a key role in developing her from a researcher to a business person.

During my internship, I became very comfortable speaking to businesses and explaining the benefits of my expertise. I learned about the kinds of things industry was interested in and how my research could address them.” she said. “It gave me the boost of confidence that I needed.”

Know your product

Unlike other remediation companies, BioNorth Solutions cleans up contaminants on the original site, as opposed to hauling soil away at great cost. BioNorth samples the contaminated ground, identifies what microorganisms are present, and determines what bacteria they could add to the soil to degrade the spill.

The identified bacteria are added to the site and monitored over several months. When the contaminants have degraded sufficiently and their levels drop below environmental standards, the site is deemed clean.

“We offer a natural, non-chemical solution to bioremediation using bacteria sourced from northern Ontario. This means it can withstand the climate and other local environmental factors,” she explains. “It’s a made-in-northern-Ontario solution.”

The road ahead

To generate consistent cash flow, Miranda and Amber are developing a commercial spill response kit. BioNorth is also taking on its first major project, remediating a site on the shores of Lake Superior, where more than 800 gallons of oil leaked into the ground from a damaged fuel tank.

Miranda plans to continue with business development, confident that companies will soon come knocking on BioNorth’s door. She is confident that the company will succeed. “This is my future. It’s about the well-being of my family,” she said. “It’s about Thunder Bay.”


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Accelerate program.