Raising the Bar for Accuracy and Cost-Efficiency in Testing for Respiratory Illnesses

COVID-19’s devastating impact on the world has shone a spotlight on the importance of effective diagnostic testing for respiratory illnesses.

Canada and UK–based company Gemina Laboratories (CSE:GLAB) is progressing multiple Point-of-Care (PoC) diagnostic products for respiratory diseases, utilizing proprietary chemistry that the company calls “one of the most significant developments in rapid in vitro diagnostics since its invention.”

“Our technologies enable tests to be less expensive, more sensitive and more environmentally friendly,” Brian Firth, Gemina Laboratories Chief Executive Officer, tells Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Firth, a 35-year veteran of the PoC diagnostics industry, spent nearly eight years at Swiss Precision Diagnostics, producer of the Clearblue-branded pregnancy test, first as managing director of its UK subsidiary and later as chief operating officer of the parent company.

He has also owned a health tech advisory practice, with clients that included Agfa, Johnson & Johnson and AkzoNobel.

Gemina’s CEO explains that the company’s technologies fit into two groups: one that improves lateral flow tests and another that improves molecular testing.

Lateral flow technology, which is commonly used in home pregnancy tests, has traditionally been subject to poor accuracy compared to laboratory equipment due to inefficient deposition of the antibody, or “catcher”, in which as little as 30% of the antibody is effective.

Gemina’s proprietary chemistry is a surface chemistry binder that acts like a stand for the catcher, ensuring that all catchers are oriented in the optimum position, which increases both stickiness and efficiency so that 100% of the catcher is effective.

The company’s lateral flow improvements enable the same sensitivity as traditional tests but with 75% less antibody usage, which is one of the major cost advantages.

Its technologies also enable tests to be built on paper, derived from plant cells contained in products such as cotton, wood and hemp, rather than using expensive and difficult-to-source nitrocellulose, which has been used for the nearly 40-year history of the lateral flow assay.

Developed in the 1800s, nitrocellulose is formed by treating cellulose with a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids to produce a flammable compound that only degrades slowly in the environment, releasing nitric acid in the process.

The compound is well suited to lateral flow assay development due, in part, to the uniformity of the nitrocellulose pore structure and to the binding affinity between nitrocellulose and the antibodies used in the lateral flow immunoassay format.

Gemina’s technologies allow tests to be made efficiently on local manufacturing cells that can be built in any country, bringing true diagnostics access to even low-income countries.

The company’s molecular technologies, meanwhile, have enabled assays to be run on fully portable molecular diagnostic machines, which can detect tuberculosis (TB) in saliva, improving the screening for TB globally.

Its molecular technologies product will enter clinical trials in 2024 with the global launch expected in 2025.

Gemina’s testing breakthrough has the goal of creating affordable, rapid, lab-accurate PoC diagnostics in any environment, worldwide.

PoC is a market that has estimated compound annual growth of 7% and is expected to reach US$55.3 billion by 2030, according to Allied Market Research.

“Gemina will begin to generate regular revenues early in 2024 with breakeven coming in early 2025,” Firth says.

He noted the company has devised a multifaceted revenue strategy that encompasses traditional product distribution, technology licensing, franchised manufacturing and a promising new venture in the pharmacy channel.

Traditional product distribution will be used for tests Gemina develops and brings to market. The company will also license its technologies to large diagnostics companies to significantly improve their processes.

As well, Gemina will engage in franchised/distributed manufacturing where manufacturing cells are licensed to individual countries, enabling these nations to manufacture their own critical diagnostics. The company will further supply the key reagents (a substance or mixture for use in chemical analysis or other reactions) and components for the individual tests the countries create.

Finally, Gemina is currently developing a pharmacy revenue channel supporting the move internationally toward test-to-treat programs.

Firth says the company’s earliest revenues will come from licence deals that are currently in negotiations, with the first of these expected to be signed soon.

To help accelerate its licence deals and partnership opportunities, Gemina recently engaged global investment bank Stifel, which has extensive licensing experience across the life sciences sector, as its exclusive financial advisor.

The initial licence deals will be followed by product distribution agreements for Asia as well as franchise manufacturing deals that are anticipated to be signed by the end of 2024.

Gemina is targeting a 20% share of the respiratory test market within 10 years, with its first product expected to be launched in the European and African markets.

To finance its growth, Firth said the company is planning a private placement in the closing months of 2023 into early 2024 that should support its strategy through 2024. 

Firth adds that the company is also seeing interest from several grant funds that will work with Gemina to secure appropriate non-dilutive funding.

And there are expectations that at some point during 2024, Gemina will use the upfront payment components of licence deals as another form of non-dilutive financing.

Looking ahead, Gemina’s CEO sees several upcoming catalysts that could help to boost corporate value.

Gemina anticipates signing its first significant licensing partnership by year’s end.

Within the next six months, the company expects to report positive pre-clinical results for its TB test, with full clinical results and the launch of the TB test targeted to occur sometime over the next year and a half.

As well, Gemina should announce the signing of distribution agreements for its molecular tests within the next year.

The company also anticipates launching its protein production facility toward the end of 2024, which will supply the increasing number of licensees expected to be signed.

Finally, along with Gemina’s first significant revenue in 2024, the company is gearing up for franchise bookings for local manufacturing facilities from multiple countries.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Gemina Laboratories at http://geminalabs.com/.

Democratizing Cannabis Markets While Aiming to Become Canada’s Leading Vice Retailer

You don’t have to look far on the Canadian Securities Exchange to find a cannabis issuer, as some of the world’s most progressive laws governing the plant’s sales and usage have led to rapid growth in cannabis companies turning to Canadian capital markets to grow their businesses.

Among those, 1CM (CSE:EPIC) stands out for the returns it has delivered for shareholders this year, with its market capitalization recently at an all-time high of $263 million.

The multidimensional cannabis company says it is dedicated to democratizing cannabis markets. It is doing this, partly, through its One Cannabis Market technology platform, which provides business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) solutions, including last-mile delivery, digital signage, big data analytics and wholesale clearing services.

Its retail operations are centred on T Cannabis, targeting the rural cannabis retail market, and Cost Cannabis, which is focused on urban consumers.

Following the 2021 acquisition of Tirthankar, a cannabis retailer founded by industry veteran Tanvi Bhandari, the company appointed Bhandari as its Chief Executive Officer six months later.

In a recent discussion with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, Bhandari shared her vision for 1CM.

1CM is succeeding in an industry that many companies have found more challenging than they had first anticipated. What gives you an edge?

I think the lowest prices, accompanied by dedication to customer service. When I started my company in 2020, my main goal was to position it to have the lowest operating overheads possible, and then determine the minimum margin required for a successful and scalable business. I think that’s what gives us an edge in the market compared to other retailers.

You say you are using technology to democratize cannabis markets. How are you doing that?

With technology, we do everything in-house with the sole purpose of, again, improving the customer service experience. For example, we have the 1CM loyalty app that’s currently live on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

This app leverages decentralized loyalty points that can be redeemed on the app for NFT coupons, in-store or taken off the app into the customer’s other non-custodial wallets. The ability for the customer to own their loyalty points and their NFT coupons and take them offline into their non-custodial wallets is a great example of democratizing the cannabis loyalty platform. So that’s something exciting. And then we also have our first wholesale e-commerce portal for retailers in Saskatchewan.

In Saskatchewan, other wholesalers operate in a more archaic fashion: they send out weekly Excel inventory lists and expect customers to send them back a purchase order.

We developed an intuitive e-commerce portal with a focus on user interface/user experience. This site allows our wholesale customers to browse, add to their cart, manage their available credit, make payments and check out.

As soon as the order is placed, we send them an advanced shipping notice (ASN) which includes the description and the images of the product that they’ve bought. The ASN can be automatically uploaded to their point of sale system, all of which significantly reduces the effort spent ordering and improves the service experience.

We also have a real-time delivery tracking app and a cannabis search engine that shows the customer the retailers around them selling the product and the price. They just need to type the product name, and it will show where the product has been sold and which location has the lowest price. This also helps us on the back end, as we use this data to ensure that our location has the lowest price.

I think there is a significant opportunity to utilize, develop and improve technology at scale in cannabis markets, and these improvements in technology will continue to democratize them. 

You entered the liquor, tobacco and consumer packaged goods (CPG) retail industry this year. Why the move into liquor?

We are expanding beyond cannabis into other vice industries. We aim to become Canada’s leading vice retailer. We see the cross-segment complementarity and will leverage our strengths and experience in low-margin retail to drive revenues from these other vice segments.

This is how it happened. Earlier this year, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) decided that they no longer wanted to operate any government-owned liquor stores and that they would all be auctioned out. Cost Cannabis won six auctioned liquor licences and then we went on to purchase some of the underlying real estate from the Saskatchewan government. The good thing about these licences is that they let us sell tobacco products along with all other CPG products depending on the municipality of the location. This is very exciting for us as we look forward to growing revenue in other vice segments, which include liquor, nicotine and CPG.

Will you look for other acquisition opportunities like this?

We’re currently looking for acquisition opportunities, both in cannabis and the liquor market. We’re trying to acquire stores at attractive valuations as the industry continues to consolidate.

Is it important to have an online presence as well as a physical presence?

Yes, 100%. I think it is important to have an online presence connected to the physical presence in this industry. That’s why we want to have the technology side of the business grow in the same way we want to grow our footprint across Canada.

Where do you see future growth coming from? Will it be organic growth or M&A?

I think both at this point. There are a lot of retailers who want to sell stores that are not performing well, so we’re looking for attractive valuations in the industry while also driving significant growth from increases in same-store sales, new locations, B2B wholesale in Saskatchewan and liquor and tobacco sales.

What’s your ultimate vision for 1CM?

My vision for 1CM is to become the leading retailer of vice in Canada, building a brick-and-mortar unicorn the old-fashioned way. That’s what I would want eventually for this company, and I think we’re going in the right direction.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about 1CM at https://1cminc.com/

Experienced Team Ready to Ride the Safe Supply Drug Trend With Patience and Prudent Investmentsexperienced Team Ready to Ride the Safe Supply Drug Trend With Patience and Prudent Investments

Governments around the world are pivoting away from a prohibition approach to the street-level drug trade in order to mitigate the harm related to its often toxic supply. 

Safe Supply Streaming (CSE:SPLY) was founded two and a half years ago in response to the opportunity presented by the burgeoning safe supply ecosystem. Its goal is to help end the opioid crisis, which claims the lives of 21 people in Canada every day.

Bill Panagiotakopoulos, Chief Executive Officer, told Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine that the company sees tremendous promise in what he calls the “third wave of drug reform,” projected to be a US$360 billion–plus total addressable market.

This “third wave” follows cannabis, which was legalized for recreational use in Canada in October 2018, and then psychedelics, which have shown promise in clinical trials as potential treatments for a range of physical and mental health conditions. 

“People, politicians and regulators are waking up to the fact that ‘The War on Drugs’ is a failed policy,” Panagiotakopoulos explains. “It’s cost us as a society over $1 trillion, millions of lives and left us with a highly toxic drug supply.”

Safe Supply Streaming believes that as more jurisdictions decriminalize and legalize psychoactive compounds and other drugs, new opportunities will emerge. As such, it acts like a venture studio and invests in and incubates companies positioned to play a pivotal role in the safe supply space. 

The company’s streaming model allows institutional and retail investors alike unique access to up-and-coming companies in the safe supply environment. 

“We’re going out and identifying companies, in most cases startups, and looking to see which ones are going to win. Being really early investors, we are giving our shareholders the first mover advantage,” Panagiotakopoulos says.

In some cases, Safe Supply Streaming can offer investors the ability to own a stake in these companies before they reach the capital markets. “That’s something not traditionally available to your average investor,” he notes.

Panagiotakopoulos says the company is looking at the entire safe supply space and placing bets on a diverse range of entities.

The company’s initial investment is in a business at the forefront of ensuring the safety of drugs: London, Ontario–based CannaLabs. The laboratory services company is researching a range of psychoactive compounds, including MDMA and DMT, and is Health Canada–licensed to conduct analytics and testing for compounds both imported and made in Canada to support safe supply programs. 

Safe Supply Streaming also has a pipeline of other candidates that it expects will lead to the expansion of its portfolio in the next six to 12 months.

“There’s so much going on in the third wave of drug reform,” says Panagiotakopoulos, pointing to fentanyl test strips as an example of the type of safe supply product or service the company would look to invest in.

Fentanyl test strips are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is also a major cause of overdoses and often shows up in MDMA, cocaine and other street drugs.

Until recently, fentanyl test strips were considered to be drug paraphernalia in the United States. But they can serve as an important tool in preventing opioid-related deaths. In Canada, 81% of apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January and March of 2023 involved fentanyl, up 42% since 2016, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The market for fentanyl test strips is expected to reach US$12.64 billion by 2030 and $6.77 billion in the United States alone by 2027.

Safe Supply Streaming is also exploring opportunities around new uses of the coca plant — known for its psychoactive alkaloid cocaine — such as in energy drinks, functional foods and pharmaceuticals.

Safe Supply Streaming’s leadership team features former executives from across the cannabis and psychedelics industries, as well as finance professionals who have the experience and knowledge required to make informed investments in the safe supply ecosystem. 

Collectively, the members of Safe Supply Streaming’s team have raised and deployed more than C$3.5 billion in capital during their careers and created more than $10 billion in shareholder value. 

Panagiotakopoulos believes it is important that the company be led by professionals who have worked in the drug ecosystem and have a deep understanding of its rules and regulations. Still, he says it isn’t easy to pick winners when it comes to cannabis and psychedelics investments.

“The best people to deal with these types of investments are those who have spent significant time in the cannabis world through its scheduling and ultimate legislation here in Canada or who have navigated the complex legal framework of having a ketamine clinic or conducting clinical trials of psilocybin to treat various ailments,” Panagiotakopoulos explains.

Safe Supply Streaming’s President is Ronan Levy, who has 15 years of capital markets experience building cannabis and psychedelics companies.

Levy co-founded and was Executive Chairman of Reunion Neurosciences, served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Field Trip Health & Wellness and founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx, which were both acquired by Aurora Cannabis in 2016. 

Setti Coscarella, Vice President of Corporate Development, worked as lead strategist of reduced-risk products at tobacco giant Philip Morris. Panagiotakopoulos notes that Coscarella’s experience in the highly regulated tobacco industry is important, in addition to his consumer packaged goods expertise.

The CEO himself brings around a decade of experience working in Canada’s cannabis sector, including participating in roundtables with Health Canada to shape the country’s licensing regime.

Among Safe Supply Streaming’s advisors are Aaron Sonshine, a partner at leading law firm Bennett Jones, and Michael Astone, a former managing director at Cantor Fitzgerald and current Chief Executive Officer of ArcStone Securities and Investments.

“You can have the right thesis but the wrong timing or the right timing but the wrong company — we’ve mitigated those risks,” Panagiotakopoulos says.

“We’re at the right time, which is early on, and the right sector, which we believe is going to be big.”

Safe Supply Streaming listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange in October, as well as on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange under the ticker QM4, and is working toward an OTC listing in the United States.

“We didn’t wait another two years until we were at a different valuation, and this allows everybody to make that investment with us,” Panagiotakopoulos says.

“We are hyper-focused on where the market is going to be in the next three to five years, and we’re making our bets. The fact that we’re publicly traded allows everybody to make those bets along with us.”

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Safe Supply Streaming at https://safesupply.com/.

Creating a single point of access to a broad range of crypto stories

Picking winners in the fast-evolving cryptocurrency, blockchain and artificial intelligence sectors isn’t easy for investors. A long list of major success stories fuels excitement about opportunities to deploy capital in both new and established companies, but as in any industry, there are also teams that were unable to reach their goals.

And yet, there is no doubt that the companies that do succeed will change the world. That’s certainly the belief at Web3 Ventures (CSE:WEBV), which offers investors exposure to entities that are pushing the boundaries for these innovative sectors.

“Look to the future and understand that things will be very different a decade from now,” says David Nikzad, the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder. “I call it deep technology, and I think Web3 Ventures is all about community. It’s a community of people that want to bring parity to the financial system and make sure that what they get has trust and transparency.”

Nikzad got his start in digital marketing and has worked in investing for the last two and a half decades. Now, with his own fund, he’s become something of a shepherd for investors who may have misgivings about blockchain and Web 3.0. 

Take the collapse of FTX, which saw US$8.9 billion in customer assets go missing under the leadership of Sam Bankman-Fried. That hurt a lot of investors, but Nikzad believes there are positives moving forward. 

“It definitely shook a lot of people’s trust in crypto, but I think it was sort of a silver lining for the bigger banks to get into the industry. That drove BlackRock and others to get into the game. I think that in a weird way, it’s all going to work out perfectly, and I think that was the catalyst.”

The CEO has an optimism that borders on inevitability. He was an early disciple of the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper and bought Bitcoin before it took off. 

Web3 Ventures, he says, is his endeavour to give investors the same opportunity but through an audited, publicly traded company.

In terms of exposure, Web3 Ventures has a mandate to focus on decentralized finance, healthcare, telecommunications, tokenization, venture capital, blockchain games and social media. All told, the company has deployed $2 million since its inception. 

Notably, Web3 Ventures’ crypto assets are staked by a third-party custodian for greater security and fairer pricing, according to its website. 

“Look at us as a liquid fund that gives somebody a community of diversified assets that they can invest in the space,” Nikzad explains.

“This is a marathon for us,” he adds. “Digital assets will become the norm. Things will be tokenized. Big board exchanges will tokenize stocks. Usually, it takes a decade for new technologies to be implemented, so the time is now.”

The Web3 Ventures team is made up of lawyers, accountants, investor relations talent and broker-dealer experts, nearly all of whom have a capital markets background. 

“My co-founder, Jason Hobson, is a securities lawyer,” Nikzad says. “I think that’s really useful in terms of reaching critical mass — getting people like that involved.”

“We’re not some kid that, you know, left Harvard and decided to use customer funds to pay for some condo,” he quips.

For the skeptics, Nikzad points to his track record. 

“In one year, we built a company that, fully diluted, has a $100 million market cap. We look at all the investments we’ve made today, and our failure rate is very low,” he says.

“We put our own money on this; we didn’t go and beg for funding. Obviously, it’s always nice to get funding but almost a little antithetical to the whole Bitcoin decentralized finance kind of ethos. We practice what we preach.”

Nikzad in many ways embodies the DeFi ethos. 

Take generative AI, which Nikzad believes has the potential to change the way consumers interact with nearly every industry on the planet, particularly in an age of declining social trust. 

“People don’t trust anybody. They don’t want to go to the doctor. Instead, they want to go to a website,” he notes. “I call it WebMD 3.0”

Nikzad, for his part, says he hasn’t been to a doctor in three decades. Why would he, he says, if there are large language models and data sets that can deliver information that’s just as good. 

“[The skeptics represent] the old guard,” he exclaims.

Looking ahead, Nikzad believes tokenization, crypto and blockchain will follow the same path that social media companies took over the past decade and a half to become mainstream. 

“My grandmother uses Facebook. That didn’t happen in the first year of Facebook, it took multiple years,” says Nikzad. “Today, my father, my grandmother, people in my family that come from previous generations, they own crypto.”

It’s a changing world, and Web3 Ventures wants to offer investors a chance to participate in the space while it’s still in its early days. 

“Do you hear any hesitation in my voice?” Nikzad asks. “No. That’s what it takes. I don’t hope and pray. We just execute and we know.”

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Web3 Ventures at https://www.w3ven.com/.

Pioneering an innovative “flower-first” approach in the cannabis world

Innovation in cannabis involves improving upon or introducing new ideas, be it in the form of genetics, product formulation or packaging. But for brands to really thrive, they must do what successful companies in any industry do: address consumer needs.

MTL Cannabis (CSE:MTLC) is a case in point. The family-founded company prides itself on being a “flower-first” group, emphasizing the importance of the cannabis plant itself. Having recently completed a successful reverse takeover of Canada House Cannabis Group (CHV), MTL is positioning itself to harness a variety of revenue streams, including Canadian recreational and medical cannabis markets, as well as international export opportunities.

Notably, the company has self-financed its organic growth, integrated the various CHV business units and expanded operations while responsibly servicing its creditors, with plans calling for continued expansion, bolstering working capital and reducing capital costs.

Mike Perron, Chief Executive Officer, is a seasoned industry professional who helped shape Canada’s regulated cannabis landscape, first as an advisor with MNP LLP and then taking on various leadership roles within the industry. Perron then teamed up with MTL’s founders, brothers Rich and Mitch Clement, to bring the cannabis world a flower-focused brand with quality and innovation at its core. He spoke with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine recently about corporate culture and what comes next.

MTL Cannabis has positioned itself as a brand that defines modern street cannabis culture. Can you elaborate on how you are achieving this and what it means to be a “flower-first” company?

This focus on flower is at the heart of our company. Our founders originate from this world, and our expertise lies in doing what we do best. We’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel or add unnecessary bells and whistles. Our primary concentration is on flower-based products, encompassing dry flower and pre-rolls, with some additional forays into producing hash, as we have the knowledge and resources in-house to expand into this category.

MTL Cannabis has gained considerable success in dried flower sales since its recreational market launch in 2020. What are the key factors that have contributed to your brand’s rapid growth and success in this segment?

From a sales perspective, our growth has been largely organic. Until last January, we didn’t even have a dedicated sales team — just one exceptional sales representative working closely with the provincial boards and hitting the streets by himself on the weekends to introduce the brand to dispensaries and budtenders.

Our story, brand and products have spread primarily through word of mouth. Budtenders and consumers trying our products and recommending them to others have been pivotal. Quality is our top priority, ensuring that everything leaving our facility is of the highest standard. When you uphold that promise to consumers and medical patients, everything else falls into place. 

The recent share exchange agreement with Canada House Wellness Group represents a significant development. How do you envision this partnership impacting MTL Cannabis?

Canada House has its roots in clinics and medical cannabis, going back to the original Canada House asset, which was a clinic in Oromocto, New Brunswick, called “Marijuana for Trauma,” and was founded by veterans for veterans. The veteran population is a significant part of our business, representing approximately 96% of our medical sales. We have 12 clinics across Canada, in addition to virtual clinics, with most strategically located near military bases.

Our approach differs from the classic licensed producer (LP) model, where clinics direct patients to their LPs; instead, we prioritize offering the best service to veterans, whether through us or other LPs. 

The transaction is set to provide MTL Cannabis with additional licensed cultivation space. How will this expansion benefit your company and its consumers?

Canada House represented significant expansion possibility, particularly with the IsoCanMed facility in Louiseville, Québec. While the facility had strong foundational elements, it required substantial improvements.

Our team, with its focus on operational excellence, recognized the facility’s potential, from efficient HVAC systems to room sizes, and invested over $2 million to enhance its capabilities. Currently, we are expanding it further, as we’re reaching our capacity limits as sales continue to increase.

MTL Cannabis aims to blend “old school knowledge with new school techniques.” Could you describe how you balance traditional cannabis cultivation practices with modern innovations, and how this approach sets you apart in the market?

When it comes to innovation, the most groundbreaking aspects have been on the supply chain and processing side, primarily driven by one of the founding brothers, Mitch.

Our innovation journey encompasses everything from post-harvest processes to packaging, making us one of a kind. It’s like a DIY project — we’ve built everything from scratch.

I often joke with Mitch, calling him a “MacGyver in manufacturing.” If you handed him a toothpick and a stick of chewing gum, he’d create a packaging line out of it. He’s found ingenious ways to scale our business, sometimes repurposing main manufacturing equipment but mostly rethinking how we do things. Coming from the culinary world, he’s like the Gordon Ramsay of our packaging operations. His relentless focus on improving efficiency is remarkable, such as optimizing the time it takes to fill three pre-rolls in a tube, trimming fractions of a second to improve speed. This stems from his passion for serving customers flawlessly, repeatedly and quickly, ensuring they have a fantastic experience every time.

The company’s portfolio includes products like dried flower, pre-rolls and hash under different brands. What’s the strategy behind the brands, and how do they cater to various consumer preferences?

In all honesty, our approach is about simplicity and authenticity. We take immense pride in our products, and we stand by them.

I’ll share a story that highlights our commitment to quality. We introduced our second SKU, starting with the Sage n’ Sour strain, and later the Cookies n’ Cream strain. It was well-received by customers and sold exceptionally well. However, when we realized that it fell short of our standards, we made the decision to discontinue it and replace it with superior genetics.

The original move might have been fine at most LPs, but it didn’t align with our stringent criteria and commitment to quality. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else ever could. Our core principle is simple: if it comes from our facility, it must be best-in-class. If it’s not, we will do everything in our power to rectify it immediately.

That’s interesting. You don’t often hear about companies pulling a top-selling product from the shelves voluntarily.

Well, our consumers are of utmost importance to us. Personally, I enjoy sitting down with our sales representatives, whether they’re on Vancouver Island or in Southwestern Ontario. I often ask them, “What’s the word on the street? What are consumers saying about our products? Is there consistent feedback or reviews that call for an upgrade, update or enhancement?” If there’s any room for improvement, we’re quick to respond. Our goal is to ensure that consumers have the best possible experience, and we want to consistently reward their commitment to our brand. 

What experiences and lessons have shaped MTL Cannabis from operating hydroponic supply stores to becoming a Health Canada–licensed cannabis cultivator?

Quality, both in terms of product and service, is our guiding principle. We acknowledge the industry’s shortcomings, often characterized by flashy promotions and over-hyped marketing with a lack of real execution. In contrast, we’re not here to put on a show. Our focus is on running a business rooted in quality, customer care and keeping our promises of quality to our consumers and patients. By fulfilling these promises, it inevitably benefits our shareholders in the long run. 

Let’s finish by discussing how you plan to meet the evolving needs of medical and recreational consumers in the cannabis industry.

I want to see continued expansion and a relentless dedication to meeting consumer needs. My hope is that, in a few years, I can look back and say that we played a role in building the best-managed and top-performing company in this industry, a company deeply rooted in quality.

I’ve been part of the cannabis industry since 2014, and our results speak volumes. There’s much work ahead for the entire industry, considering that it has, to some extent, lost the trust of investors. We aim to be a part of an industry-wide effort to regain that trust. Rebuilding trust takes time, and we want to be one of the companies leading the way in restoring investor confidence.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about MTL Cannabis at mtlcannabis.ca

Innovation drives success at a beverage legend where customers shape branding and unique flavour is the norm

“Give the people what they want” is a tried-and-true business philosophy, but rarely does one come across a company as open to customer wants and ideas as Jones Soda (CSE:JSDA). From putting photos submitted by consumers on the bottles of its craft sodas to encouraging product customization for events big and small, listening to its base has made Jones a success story for over a quarter of a century.

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine caught up with David Knight, the company’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, in early November to learn about the history of the brand and what comes next. Expanding a winning formula into multiple new markets lies at the core of its tasty plan.

Jones has one of the most eye-catching and constantly evolving brands in any market. Consumers can even submit their own photos and potentially see them on a bottle. This is obviously a reflection of corporate culture and a philosophy of success. Tell us more about the thinking behind the brand.

The company was founded in 1995, so it’s been around for 28 years now. The founders chose the name Jones because they wanted one of the most frequently used last names in the country. They started with Smith and ended up going with Jones, which is in the top five in the US and the top 15 in Canada. It was really started as the beverage of the people.

The platform is all about natural cane sugar with unique flavours and bright colours. It’s about fun and great taste and lots of options.

From a community standpoint, this month we have our one millionth community photo on the bottles, so we’ve got a deep level of interaction with our core consumers who, as you said, send in their photos, and if they make it, their photo goes on the bottles. It is a lot of fun, and we get real engagement and great stories on our products.

Last year, we added augmented reality, which means you can use an app on your phone and bring a photo to life as a video.

We started on the street, so we are very deep into action sports like BMX and skate and surf. We were the cool brand to be found in skate shops and delis, and since then have moved into larger formats such as Safeway, Albertsons, Walmart and Target. It’s really grown from the original days and has been a fun ride for the team.

As the newly appointed President and CEO, what is your plan for the company? What is the focus, what are you looking to preserve and is there anything you believe needs to change?

As we’ve just talked about, we’ve got a very powerful brand. We think there is a huge opportunity with consumers who have experienced Jones at various times throughout their lives. We have that core group of consumers, and we also need to invest in the next generation and bring those folks into Jones as well. We are doing that, in part, through more distribution and getting into convenience stores.

As a beverage guy, I’m a big believer in cold availability, which means making sure that Jones is available cold at arm’s length for consumers. Anywhere there is a fridge with beverages in it, Jones needs to be there. In other words, distribution growth.

The team has done a wonderful job of getting us into the cannabis market as well. We launched Mary Jones in California and have good penetration among dispensaries in the state. We quickly became the number one cannabis soda and were just voted the best-tasting cannabis soda at a recent cannabis cup.

The transition of great taste from soda into cannabis beverages has been a big one. We’re in Washington now too and are launching into Michigan. We’ll then be looking at expanding the brand into other states, with a strong look at Canada in 2024.

Beyond that, we just launched Jones Plus, which is an energy play. It’s a high-boost caffeinated beverage.

So, the theme is innovation that makes sense for us in categories and beverages where the brand will work. We define that as craft sodas, craft caffeinated beverages and the cannabis play with Mary Jones in both the regulated and the Delta 9 hemp-derived space.

Let’s look at results. Sales dropped a little over 10% from the first half of 2022 on a challenging year-on-year comparison, though margins improved quite noticeably. Is that improvement reflective of operations or are there external factors at play?

Management set a focus on margin improvement about three years ago with a five-year objective of getting to a 35% margin. So far, I think we’ve achieved an improvement of nine percentage points, so that’s a huge accomplishment by the operations team.

As we’re mostly in large format retail stores, grocery, etc., we did see some headwinds. Some of our accounts during COVID-19 switched from single bottles to four-packs and then switched back, and this is what caused most of our volume decline.

Thanks to innovation, including a mini can which I think will do well, we are expecting a rebound next year, as we have a new format, new space and new distribution in the retail market.

The beverage business is pretty cyclical. You present, you get listings, you drive volume for that year and you kind of rinse and repeat for the next year. We’ve just gone through that cycle and expect some big wins for 2024.

Let’s look at the creative side of the company. Internally, where do ideas for flavours such as Zombie Juice and Pucker Punch come from?

We believe that good ideas can come from anywhere. And again, our community is pretty forthcoming with ideas. We get a lot of flavour ideas from customers, and underneath every cap we have a little phrase from the community. We take ideas beyond just the photos we get.

Jones also has a pretty tight creative team. Some of our team have been on the brand for over 20 years, so we have a good history and legacy of what Jones is and how we can keep that authentic.

That’s one of our secret sauces. It’s the creativity of the brand. We are edgy and we like to have fun, and as a team, we select the ones that we think are going to work. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, though we do drive hard at it.

You mentioned you get a lot of feedback from the community. Can you share a story with us that stands out in your mind?

In my first week at Jones, I was going through an airport with a Jones t-shirt on, and someone pulled me aside and said, “Oh, Jones is super cool. I love the turkey gravy.” We came out with a turkey gravy flavour for Thanksgiving several years ago, and it comes back every year.

Similarly, we are now launching a dog soda based on bone broth and some functional ingredients that help dogs with joint health. It goes to show that these fanciful flavours really do resonate, and we get community feedback, press pickup — I don’t know of another beverage business that does this.

Humans drink throughout the day, but there is competition for their dollar. What are the top reasons you believe the company can increase its value consistently going forward?

I’m a brand guy and have worked on some pretty big brands, but Jones is a particularly good one. It has a deep history and is known for its fun irreverence. We are a very welcoming brand across all genres, colours, sizes and shapes. I feel blessed that I’m working on a brand that has such a legacy in this country. You talk to people who have had Jones, and they can tell you a story about their first experience with a cream soda or a root beer.

We have a team that is passionate about the business and a culture that thrives in terms of ideas and appetite for growth and going the extra mile. It’s a great brand with great people.

The one area I really want to drive is innovation and continuing to do things that bigger companies do not. We have a brand called MyJones where consumers send us a photo for an engagement party or a graduation, and they can customize the bottles for their event. We take customization seriously, all the way to our retailers. As an example, we’ll do special events for our retailers where we put their brand on bottles. Customization is a competitive advantage, and we’ll do a lot more of it in 2024.

And we are pushing the edge of what else Jones can do beyond craft soda, caffeinated beverages and cannabis beverages. We are pushing the innovation pipeline for next year.

Partners are important, too. I can talk about STK Steakhouse and Kona Grill. Jones is now on their menu for soda, a float and a spiked Jones. They are responding well to the velocity and margin that they are getting and the glass bottle that works with fine dining.

We’re really making sure we get Jones into more key distribution points and have people celebrate the legacy of the brand. We are doing a lot of great things for next year, and we’re all really excited.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Jones Soda at https://www.jonessoda.com/

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine: The Inspiration Issue – Now Live!

Welcome to the latest issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, your source for in-depth stories of entrepreneurs from a wealth of different industries.

Whether it is an incremental step forward or a giant leap, inspiration is often the catalyst for entrepreneurs and investors to breathe life into a vision of the future. This inspiration-themed edition of our magazine takes a cross-sectoral view of stories, highlighting the diversity of listings on the CSE and demonstrating the fact that as Canada’s leading entrepreneurial exchange, we have front row seats to some of the most innovative pursuits of our time. 

In this issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, we feature six CSE-listed companies that are setting the pace on innovative approaches to new and familiar frontiers, including cannabis, blockchain, and healthcare.

The CSE-listed companies featured in this issue include:

Check out the Inspiration Issue of Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine here: 

Hillcrest Energy Technologies: Perfecting Clean Energy Breakthrough (That could soon be coming to an EV near you)

electric car, electric vehicle parking, charging point, EV charging point

Hillcrest Energy Technologies Ltd (CSE:HEAT) is a Canadian clean tech company playing a role in the global shift to green energy. The company specializes in optimizing electrical systems, such as those used in electric vehicles, with its proprietary Zero Voltage Switching (ZVS) Inverter Technology, a cutting-edge approach that minimizes switching losses.

Hillcrest’s in-house power electronics hardware and control firmware combine to enhance efficiency, performance and reliability in electric systems – think control systems and power conversion devices for next-generation electric and fuel cell vehicle powertrains, charging applications and renewable energy systems.

In the booming electric vehicle (EV) market, Hillcrest’s ZVS Inverter Technology, along with its Enhanced Powertrain Solution, eliminates the need for an onboard charger and booster, and thus simplifies the charging process.

With EVs set to represent up to 18% of the global car market this year, according to the International Energy Agency, Hillcrest is driving innovation for lighter, more compact and more efficient solutions. This aligns with government initiatives and automakers’ electrification targets, such as General Motors’ US$35 billion investment and its ambition to have 30 electric models globally by 2025.

In an interview with Proactive, CEO Don Currie highlighted Hillcrest’s role in helping to shape the future of electrified systems worldwide.

Don, two years ago we’d have been talking to you about petroleum. What was behind Hillcrest’s shift from oil and gas to clean energy technologies?

We realized that the company had to shift from oil and gas because the sector wasn’t feasible for a small company any longer. Money was not easily available, and the investment world wasn’t behind it. We started looking at a strategic transition into clean energy and began that transition around March 2020.

Clean tech and clean energy had the interest of almost 100% of the investment community. We needed to find a niche that made sense for us. Our advisor at the time, now our Chief Technology Officer, Ari Berger, thought the company would benefit from focusing on power conversion technologies, such as inverters. Zero voltage switching is agnostic to the application and can work in renewables, solar and electric vehicles, where members of our team are extremely well connected.

What is the challenge that manufacturers face where inverters such as yours could come into play?

Soft-switching is a major focus for our company. Right now, nearly all electric vehicles in the world use hard-switching inverters. While they offer efficiency benefits, there are trade-offs involved. However, we have successfully developed the world’s first commercial prototype of a soft-switching inverter.

Soft-switching allows our ZVS inverters to operate at higher switching frequencies and eliminate losses associated with switching. One of the European original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) we are working with, for instance, is looking to lower electromagnetic interference (EMI) to a level where protective shielding would not be needed. Our initial tests indicate that we can meet or surpass this requirement, potentially saving them $200 to $225 per car. With production volumes of a single model of 100,000 units per year, that could translate into potential savings of $22 million. Alongside improved efficiency, our ZVS soft-switching technology delivers cost savings for OEMs, developers and manufacturers while enhancing convenience for consumers.

Would it be correct to say that it translates into not only a lower cost model, but also one that is more reliable and longer lasting?

Let’s consider the immediate impact of our technology. One EV manufacturer said that a 1% increase in efficiency translates to a 2% range increase. Our inverter, with its 99.48% efficiency, has shown up to a 13% increase in motor efficiency during our tests. This could potentially result in a 26% boost in range for consumers. While it’s uncertain whether manufacturers will pass on the savings to consumers, increased efficiency can reduce battery size and extend range. This directly benefits consumers who want a quicker return on investment. Our technology shortens the payback period, making EVs a more economically attractive choice for buyers.

The global inverter market is expected to see a huge amount of growth over the next few years, to $95 billion by 2028. What’s behind these numbers?

That $95 billion encompasses all uses of inverters, not just EVs, and translates to 5% annual growth. The actual EV inverter market is projected to reach $11.5 billion by 2027, which is about 23% annual growth. It makes sense because all the automotive manufacturers are moving toward full electrification, and it’s happening at an incredible pace. The growth is there and so is the market.

Take us through your commercialization strategy. You have several projects in development. When are they going to translate into revenue?

Well, we have ongoing commercial development deals with seven companies at different stages. These deals typically have staged milestones. The first milestone involves demonstrating the technology and ensuring its compatibility with their application. We recently announced the achievement of milestone one with a global tier one supplier, which is a significant step toward milestone two, and then moving toward milestone three where we expect definitive commercial agreements to be discussed.

We also have a partnership with Hercules Electric Mobility, which we expect to progress quickly. Additionally, we have publicly mentioned a European OEM that is providing a motor to our German partners for integration with our technology. We are now working closely with them to meet their specific requirements.

We anticipate starting definitive commercial agreement discussions with some, if not all, of our partners in the third and fourth quarters of 2023. After that, we’re expecting revenue to start flowing in 2024. Revenues are expected to climb through 2025 with significant revenue growth projected to occur into 2026 when the technology could be deployed in actual models.

At volume, and depending on the specific application, our inverters will be competitively priced and expected to be roughly the same cost as inverters currently on the market – around $1,000, depending on the currency exchange rate. If an OEM requires 100,000 units per year for a particular model, that translates to a contract value of approximately $100 million. Once we reach definitive agreements and have clarity on the numbers, the revenue ramp-up will be rapid.

Another important benefit of our inverter that sets us apart is the potential for our customers to offset the cost of purchasing our inverter with up to $700 in material savings across the powertrain system.

What are you working on in terms of R&D?

The inverter technology itself has undergone rigorous testing, and we have successfully demonstrated to the European OEM that the EMI tests meet or surpass the required protective shielding standards. Currently, our focus is on developing grid software technology in the lab. Our goal is to combine the benefits of our inverter technology with the new grid software into a proof of concept for an enhanced powertrain solution by the end of this year.

In the context of a vehicle, the powertrain encompasses the motor, inverter, batteries and onboard charger. We firmly believe that we can eliminate the need for an onboard charger, resulting in cost savings for manufacturers and more efficient, bidirectional charging capabilities for customers. This enhancement requires the installation of grid-related software, a task that is expected to be completed late Q2 or early Q3 this year. The bidirectional nature of this powertrain allows it to not only draw power from the grid for charging but also feed power back into the grid. By eliminating the onboard charger, the convenience and availability of charging options for users are significantly increased, which forms part of our enhanced powertrain solution.

Looking ahead, we are planning for the 2024 release of a multilevel power inverter, which involves utilizing a string of 250 kilowatt, 800 volt inverters. This configuration is specifically designed for grid-related applications with significantly higher power requirements. As we approach the end of 2023, we will actively engage with interested parties who have expressed their readiness to explore how our technology can be applied to their specific applications.

As the CEO of a clean energy technology company, what drives you?

I have never felt this level of excitement in my professional career. The industry we are involved in is growing faster than anyone imagined it would and every day brings new and positive developments. What drives me the most is the industry’s response to our work. Firstly, it’s all about the team. In such a short period, we have assembled an incredible team with world class connections. It’s astonishing what we, as a collective, have achieved in just two years – going from an idea to proof of concept and now having commercial prototypes.

What truly excites me is the demand for our product around the world. The reactions we receive from the industry are overwhelmingly positive, which in turn makes it easy to maintain a positive outlook. Watching the team consistently meet and surpass every milestone we set for ourselves, publicly and internally, is nothing short of thrilling. Every day at work is enjoyable and rewarding.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Hillcrest Energy Technologies at https://hillcrestenergy.tech/

Nextech3D.AI: On trend with multifaceted AI/AR technology for e-commerce

They say that timing is everything, and it’s especially true when launching a new business.

In 2018, Wall Street veteran and serial entrepreneur Evan Gappelberg founded Nextech3D.AI (CSE:NTAR) on the idea that augmented reality (AR) and 3D modelling would become of central importance to e-commerce.

An astute technology trend spotter, Gappelberg’s Nextech3D.AI is the right company, in the right place, at the right time. Its diversified AR and AI technology is enjoying strong demand, particularly for 3D WebAR photorealistic models that online retailers use to market products more effectively.

The company has a major presence in the United States, among other markets, with a long list of high-profile clients ranging from Amazon to Kohl’s and Target.

Nextech3D.AI recently reported first quarter 2023 revenue of $1.3 million, up 40% sequentially, as 3D model revenue climbed 550% year over year. 

Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine caught up with Gappelberg to talk about how Nextech3D.AI is riding breakthrough generative AI technology to become a player in the US$100 billion 3D modelling wave set to sweep through retail over the next decade.

You founded what is now Nextech3D.AI in January 2018 with a vision that AR/3D was going be a megatrend. It seems that everything has panned out exactly the way you saw it. How do you feel?  

I feel vindicated! The pandemic in some ways derailed my vision. In other ways, it accelerated what was happening. It felt like we were first being pushed in another direction completely. But after the pandemic, once the dust had settled, it seemed like 3D and AR had moved into high gear. The demand started picking up and clearly things were moving faster than before the pandemic. 

I feel pretty good coming up with the business idea back in 2018 and spotting the trend early — it is really exploding right now. With my decades of training on Wall Street, I can spot technology trends fairly early. I knew that AR/3D was going be a megatrend in the shift to e-commerce. 

Nextech3D.AI is a top provider of AR Wayfinding technologies and a 3D model supplier for hundreds of brands. How big is the market opportunity?

We’ve been building toward this moment for five years. We are standing in front of a $100 billion dollar 3D modelling market, tucked inside the $5.5 trillion global e-commerce ecosystem, and we plan to take full advantage. Everything that’s being sold online today and everything that’s going to be sold online in the future is going to have a 3D model, or digital twin. That represents a huge multi-decade opportunity. 

In fact, I saw an article which said that by 2040, 95% of all commerce is going to be conducted online. Most importantly, shopping in 3D has been proven to lead to 40% lower product returns, a 93% higher click-through rate, and a 250% boost in conversions. It’s metrics such as these that are driving the rapid adoption of everything 3D.

Last year, Nextech3D.AI won a $6.7 million 3D model order from Amazon Prime Marketplace. How is that going, and what are some of your other contract wins?

Our relationship with Amazon continues to get better and better. We started working with them in the third quarter of 2022. We were in a trial stage, really a testing phase, and we passed with flying colours, and we signed a three-     year contract with Amazon. We just reached a major milestone by delivering more than 20,000 3D models as the company’s preferred 3D model supplier. Amazon is the biggest fish in the e-commerce ocean. They are the whale of whales.

We also do business with American retail giants Kohl’s and Target. All told, we are a supplier to over 100 brands and companies. We supply 3D models to Procter & Gamble, Dyson and many other top companies, though no single one really compares to Amazon.

Talk about your journey as a public company now that Nextech3D.AI has been around for a few years. 

Since we have no institutional ownership in our stock and company, we get a distortion in value. It’s essentially retail investors deciding what price our stock is trading at in a volatile market. You look at a $100 billion opportunity, a tech company that has breakthrough generative AI and has landed the largest e-commerce customer in the form of Amazon, and yet we still only have a market cap of $51 million.

Tell us about the launch of your new generative AI technology that can create 3D models from text prompts.

We have technology that we are developing in-house that’s generative AI, and we’re really approaching this from multiple angles where you can use a text prompt and just type in “leather” or “couch”, indicate whether it’s shiny leather or matte leather and the AI will create that swatch that can then be draped over a 3D model. These technological advancements allow us to scale the production of 3D models, which is exactly what’s required when you are dealing with giant customers like Amazon. 

With generative AI, we are creating an increasingly wide and exponentially growing moat: the more models we make, the larger the moat. I believe that we are at the point where the value of Nextech3D.AI goes up with each new 3D model we make, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and value.

ARway was spun off from Nextech3D.AI in October 2022. The company says its goal is to exit 2023 with a $10 million sales pipeline. Are you seeing strong demand for ARway’s wayfinding technology?

We are in late-stage negotiations with blue chip companies and governments. Verizon is one of them and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers is another. The Canadian Armed Forces, believe it or not, is another entity that is testing out the technology. These are all enterprise contracts, and they’re all very impressed by the technology. It’s only a matter of time before the dominoes start falling and customers start signing bigger contracts.

Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters has posters with phrases like “Done is Better than Perfect” and “Move Fast and Break Things.” Do you have motivational mottos at Nextech3D.AI?

Take extreme risks to enjoy outsized rewards. That’s kind of our motto. It’s the way I live my life. You only live once, right? Taking a risk means you actually make a decision, commit, be strong and create something beautiful with your dream.

Why is Nextech3D.AI a company to watch?

Nextech3D.AI gives investors an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a CEO who has public market experience, a track record of success and is the single largest shareholder in the company. In other words, he puts his money where his mouth is.

You’re also investing in a company that has proven itself on the big stage by doing business with heavy hitters like Amazon, Procter & Gamble, Kohl’s and Target.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Nextech3D.AI at http://www.nextechar.com/

Critical Infrastructure Technologies: A Communications Solution for Disasters, Defence, Mining and More Prepares To Break Into the Big Time

One can hardly turn on the news these days without learning of some event around the world that has displaced large numbers of people and knocked out essential services.

While some debate the cause, one thing’s for certain: climate change is occurring. Armed conflicts play havoc with communications and power networks as well, of course. Getting communications back up and running in these environments can literally be a matter of life and death.

Critical Infrastructure Technologies (CSE:CTTT) is ready to help with a platform that lifts itself off a flatbed truck and sets up in extreme conditions, launching a communications network from atop a 16 metre mast so that residents, emergency workers and others can easily connect with one another again. Nexus 16, as the platform is called, has everyday commercial applications as well.

Chief Executive Officer Brenton Scott recently joined Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine from the company’s head office in Fremantle, Australia to discuss the many uses of Nexus 16 and the outlook for adoption by the industrial and government sectors.

It is not uncommon these days for unforeseen events to cut off power and electronic communications. What products do you offer to help companies and countries manage these situations?

You raised emergency services, in essence, and then there is also mining, and the third sector we are targeting is defence.

With emergency services, any natural disaster is likely to knock power out, and when power goes down, your fixed infrastructure goes down with it. Fixed communications towers generally have a four-to-eight-hour backup power supply, but after that you are going to lose those towers.

Telcos over-cater with their cellular networks such that operating radiuses overlap. If one goes down, another one can pick it up. But with a widespread power outage, it can all go down.

We provide a solution that is a fully autonomous, self-deploying mobile communications platform.  You can deploy it within 30 minutes and restore a whole communications network, using satellite if need be, or we can tap into a fixed communications tower that is operational about 50 kilometres away and bring the signal back. And if you put multiple platforms around, it will form a mesh network that creates a much broader telecommunications system.

Our platform basically gets moved around on a flatbed truck and will lift itself off the truck. The driver does not have to get out of the vehicle to deploy it in bad conditions. External systems can monitor and control everything.

The emergency application is clear. What about in mining?

As miners move more and more toward autonomous haulage, which is driverless vehicles, they need a stable communications network on site. Effectively, they need a 4G or 5G network to operate their vehicles.

If they have a communications blackout, and this happens in pits occasionally as the pit expands and deepens, they will experience black spots. If an autonomous vehicle goes through a black spot, communication is cut and every single vehicle in the train of vehicles stops. Big miners value stoppage in production in the millions of dollars per minute, so they can’t have this happen.

A lot of them put as many fixed towers around sites as possible. But as pits expand, they can’t put a fixed solution on the edge because the shape is constantly changing.

Our system is easily moveable, so if the platform is near a blasting area, for example, you just move it out of the way.

How about on defence?

Let’s use Ukraine as the defence example. The Russian Federation is targeting fixed infrastructure, so they are taking out power sources. That creates a communications problem both on the battlefield and from a humanitarian perspective.

We have had multiple meetings with the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia has been to our office and seen a demonstration of the product. And last September, I went to Poland and met with members of the Ukrainian defence ministry attaché and showed them the product. We are in frequent contact to see how Nexus 16 could help and how we might get platforms to Ukraine.

The beauty of the product is that we supply a platform that goes up 16 metres, and it is fully mobile with a retractable mast. We are marketing it as a communications platform, so we put our radars and everything on top to provide a telecommunications network.

We were asked what else could go on top of the mast. The answer is anything that weighs less than 250 kilograms. It could be used as a surveillance system with cameras on it. You could put it up 16 metres to have a look around, and you could pull it back down and move the platform, just like a periscope in a submarine. You could put a drone detection system on top. You could have a mobile airport control tower.

Where do you see immediate demand coming from, and will there be ongoing demand from one sector and then event-driven demand layered on top of that?

We are moving from R&D into commercialization and are building our first two platforms. We have shown the product to a number of large mining companies in Western Australia and are in discussions with one of them to purchase one of the first platforms for a specific need they have.

The first unit sold to a big mining company would be a significant event, and we think we are close to achieving that. Once that happens it should give us traction in the mining field. And then we’ll build based on demand. We see mining being a big market for us.

On emergency services, we have met with the Western Australian Minister for Emergency Services and also with representatives from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services. They are fully aware of the problems in the event of a natural disaster. When the fires spread around Western Australia, townships were concerned there was no communications network to be able to warn first responders and residents of fires that were coming. The government should be buying platforms to cover the whole region.

The recent budget from the West Australian Premier revealed that during the last year, the state government received AU$11.1 billion in mining royalties, which works out to $30.4 million per day. If a cyclone hit the northwest of Western Australia and took out infrastructure at mine sites or at the port, every day they can’t load a ship it costs the state $30.4 million. They can buy 10 of our platforms and it is an insurance policy against $30.4 million per day.

With defence, we are working with Ukraine. We are talking with Australia’s federal government as well, which is looking to increase its defence capabilities. The government just brought out a strategic review and part of that is ensuring that the northwest of Western Australia has adequate infrastructure in place.

Because of the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the US and the UK, the three countries are working to provide much better protection in the Indo-Pacific region. We think there is potential to sell product into the AUKUS partnership as they take up occupancy in remote islands, for example, to make sure they have a presence and eyes and ears in the region.

Talk to us about the design challenges you overcame to ensure Nexus 16 was ready to work in tough environments.

The team came together about two years ago with lots of experience in communications. Our design challenges were around making it the size of a 20 foot sea container, and having four robotic legs that lift it off the truck and settle it back down and stabilize it to hold a 16 metre mast. Some people liken it to a Transformer – it comes out of this 20 foot shape and the whole thing comes to life with the push of a button.

We created a walk-in control room to house batteries and any other computer equipment required. There are dual generators with diesel tanks in case the batteries go down. We have a solar array on the roof.  

The tower can withstand near-cyclonic winds up to 140 kilometres per hour. And if the wind gets over a certain level, the mast will automatically retract to protect itself. We have more redundancies built into this product than you can imagine.

How does this all come together as a story that people should follow?

We think the product speaks for itself. Is the product going to sell? Absolutely the product is going to sell. It is a true global product targeting three very good sectors: mining, emergency services and defence.

It’s a product that is also recession-proof, in our view. Mining doesn’t stop. Miners continue to look at creating efficiencies within their networks to get their commodity out at the lowest possible price in the shortest possible time frame. When commodity prices weaken, they don’t stop. They keep producing but they look to improve their margins, and we are a product that can help them with that.

Emergency services will always be there. Natural disasters seem to be happening more and more often. We are in the right place to be able to provide a local solution for communications outages.

On defence, every single Western military is improving defence capabilities and looking at having redundancies in place. And we fit well within the defence sector.

Any investor is going to look at what the company does, what are their opportunities, what is their product, is it any good, is it scalable, do they think they can sell the product.  I think we tick a lot of boxes. We have good forecast margins, and we hope to sign our first contract soon. And our upcoming secondary listing on the OTC will give US investors easy access to our shares.

Now is the time that investors would be looking at us and doing their due diligence. We are pre-revenue but have de-risked the business and things are moving quicker than we thought. As we do generate sales and contracts and all of that, I would hope to see that reflected in our valuation.

This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.

Learn more about Critical Infrastructure Technologies at https://citech.com.au/