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By Jason Puracal, Co-Founder and CEO, Zila Works

There is an unfortunate paradox in the global race to net zero: many of the technologies designed to move our economy away from fossil fuels actually require fossil fuel-based products as part of their design. For example, the materials used to make wind turbines for clean energy production, composites used to make vehicles lighter, and coatings and finishes used to make buildings last longer, all require epoxy resin as an important building block. But traditional epoxy resins are made from petroleum feedstocks. 

ZILA Works developed a bio-epoxy resin made from industrial hemp instead of petroleum. Farmers plant hemp, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts the carbon into a variety of quality organic biomass. Hemp seeds are pressed to separate the oil, which is then converted to epoxy resin through ZILA’s patented process. ZILA’s bio-epoxy resin is a low carbon or carbon sequestering solution for the circular economy, and we recently began a third-party Life Cycle Assessment to validate the low environmental impact of the technology. 

One of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world, Vestas, recently chose ZILA Works as a winner of their call for technology challenge for their next generation of low carbon wind turbine blades. Vestas uses 100,000 tonnes of epoxy resin annually, and ZILA Works has been working through collaboration with stakeholders to move from a bootstrapping startup to a robust partner. 

Up the supply chain, ZILA Works is collaborating with industrial hemp growers and processors in Alberta where hemp has been maturing for more than two decades. At the processing level, instead of exporting raw hemp seed oil out of Canada, ZILA Works is working to pilot the higher value-added bio-epoxy resin production in Canada. This will allow ZILA Works to leverage a high-quality talent pool of chemists and chemical engineers from the oil and gas industry to complement the strong, diverse team of industry professionals and advisors already supporting ZILA Works. 

ZILA Works is partnering with manufacturers in niche markets that demand extremely high performance materials, yet have quicker R&D cycles and minimal prototype costs such as those in the outdoor industry. This winter season, Zila Works is partnering in a 100-board pilot program with global snowboarding leader, Burton who controls approximately 40% of the global snowboard market. 

On the demand side, ZILA Works expects to leverage its Minority Business Enterprise certifications to access channels to market through Washington State and US federal procurement offices. The company has already formulated floor coatings for concrete and tile floors to be applied in hospitals and schools to help keep our most vulnerable safe during covid. The floor coatings market segment does not require the same demanding performance requirements as composites in the outdoor industry, however consumption volumes are much larger with approximately $800 M annually in the US alone. 

ZILA’s patent portfolio includes four issued and three pending patents and the company has a clear pathway to scale up and commercialize its bio-epoxy resin platform technology. ZILA has strategic partners waiting for samples to test the resin and help achieve these goals. In seven years, ZILA Works anticipates being on its way to $100M annual recurring revenue with ~100 new jobs created, supporting over 100,000 hectares of hemp cultivation each year, and sequestering over 5.8 megatonnes of CO2 per year. The momentum is growing, and we look forward to building a safer and greener green. 

Originally published in Scovan’s IGNITE Vol. 3