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Sunday, July 14, 2024

NC trend: Can Biomason disrupt the cement business?

Whether you’re a science nerd or a finance geek, Biomason is a North Carolina startup worth watching as it uses biology to produce cement. 

Biomason predicts its proprietary technology can eliminate 25% of global carbon emissions from the concrete industry by 2030. Investors bought in to the tune of $65 million in venture capital funding in February 2022. It was among the state’s biggest venture capital investments last year, on par with the $70 million raised by Morrisville-based JupiterOne, which creates cybersecurity software.

Biomason had previously raised about $10 million since its inception in 2012. Its continued development caught the attention of lead investor 2150, a London-based venture capital company that says on its website that it backs entrepreneurs who “have suspended our disbelief in a sustainable future built on cutting-edge technology innovation that is sometimes hard to imagine.”  

Three companies tied to North Carolina are also investors: Zebulon-based Noël Ventures owns engineered-foam product maker Nomaco; Raleigh-based Martin Marietta is one of the biggest U.S. aggregates companies with $6.1 billion in revenue last year; and Novo Holdings, the investment arm of Danish biotech giant Novo Nordisk, which has major Triangle plants. 

After water, concrete is the most-consumed material on earth, with roughly 30 billion tons of concrete — requiring roughly 4 billion tons of cement — consumed per year. In terms of environmental impact, 2150 reports the cement industry is responsible for as much as 8% of all global CO2 emissions. 

That makes Biomason CEO Ginger Krieg Dosier and her biocement, which is grown from microorganisms, a potential game-changer for overcoming climate adversity in the construction sector. The company employs about 100 people and has a production plant in Durham of about 10,000 square feet.

“Given its trillion-dollar scale and continued global use, cement and concrete decarbonization represents both a massive business opportunity as well as possibly one of the most actionable and scalable methods for reducing global CO2 emissions,” 2150 stated in its assessment of the industry. 

Dosier’s passion for cement mixes started as a child in Huntsville, Alabama, where her father worked as a NASA scientist. “Growing up we had piles of aggregate, sand, and cement as part of his weekend concrete projects,” she said in an April 2022 interview with San Francisco-based Celesta Capital, another Biomason investor. “He taught me how to make concrete in a Dixie cup when I was 7 and ever since I’ve been fascinated with ‘liquid stone.’”

Dosier, who declined an interview request, has a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture from Auburn University and a master of architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit. She previously taught in the United Arab Emirates and as a visiting assistant professor at N.C. State University. 

In June, Biomason announced a partnership with Netherlands-based StoneCycling to drive sales of Biomason’s precast tile products used for walls and floors in interior and exterior surfaces. StoneCycling creates building materials from waste materials.

The company is planning a production plant in Denmark with Danish concrete manufacturer IBF. Plans call for a capacity of 35,000 square meters of product this year.        

Globally, the cement market rings in at $300 billion annually and concrete is a $1 trillion enterprise. Biomason’s technology uses bacteria to create calcium carbonate that combines with aggregates or sand at existing temperatures.  

Anders Bendsen Spohr, a senior partner at Biomason investor Novo Holdings, says his firm “truly believes that biotechnology has the potential to become a spearhead for the green transition of society.”        

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