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Todd Burns

The negative impact of road salts is well documented. The heavy use of chlorides has been known to cause damage to vegetation, organisms in the soil, birds, and other wildlife disrupting whole ecosystems.

Cypher Environmental is on a mission to keep these harmful chemicals off our roads and out of our ecosystems. We are a global provider of environmentally friendly cleantech dust control and road stabilization solutions. Our products are non-toxic, non-corrosive, and biodegradable, and they are the only road management solutions that leave behind zero environmental impact. Our proprietary solutions have been used in over 50 countries in mining, aviation, and forestry and by municipalities to enhance their road infrastructure.

Tell us about yourself?

Assessing the need to create change in the world. Our society has decided it’s completely acceptable for toxic products to be sold and used. Greenwashing seems to be a perfectly acceptable practice these days. I wanted to be one of the catalysts to change that in terms of eliminating the ability for other companies to Greenwash and setting the bar higher for corporate social responsibility. Infrastructure is a huge capital spend for governments and private industries around the world, and there are significant drawbacks to how infrastructure is developed, maintained, and managed with respect to how it impacts the environment. It seemed like an easy fit for my ability to give back while creating a viable business.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

We’re getting into the commercialization of a non-toxic, non-corrosive alternative to salt for de-icing. If I could go back a year or two, I would probably slow down a little bit on the promotion of the product pre-commercialization. We were so excited about our newest innovation that we started talking about it a little prematurely. It garnered a ton of interest from potential customers and end-users, but we still needed to get to the point of scale-up where we could supply enough volume to actually replace salt. So we’re trying to be very meticulous in our approach now. In hindsight, we wouldn’t need to be so meticulous had we not been so aggressive at the onset of talking about it with distributors and potential customers.

Cypher Environmental

What problem does your business solve?

Sodium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and magnesium chloride are the main ingredients in road salts that are commonly used for dust suppression and de-icing. However, the hazardous impact these road salts can have on the environment has been well-documented. When these chlorides are released into the environment, they can upset the existing balance of the ecosystem and affect the wildlife and vegetation that reside there. These salts not only cause corrosion to buildings and vehicles, but they also pose a real threat to water quality and vegetation as runoff into groundwater, and freshwater sources can pollute our already scarce drinking water reservoirs. High amounts of chlorides can affect oxygen levels, which can be toxic to fish and wildlife. On land, salts can cause significant plant damage, as seen in dried-up or brown leaves and needles, loss of foliage, or even premature plant death. The runoff can also end up being absorbed by plant roots, and the sodium can cause soil compaction while reducing water infiltration, making it harder for plants to receive water. Traditional dust suppression that uses water as a way to suppress dust also uses a tremendous amount of water at a time when drought and water shortages are impacting many parts of the world.

Cypher’s products – DUST/BLOKR® and ROAD//STABILIZR® are environmentally friendly alternatives that are still able to achieve the same (if not better) results as the chlorides without having any adverse impact on the environment. Since the very beginning, our core mandate has been to develop 100 per cent environmentally friendly cleantech products that help our clients solve road challenges caused by dust and poor road quality. Our products eliminate the use of water for dust suppression and reduce the need for ongoing maintenance, thereby reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Stable road surfaces also improve fuel efficiency as haul trucks encounter less resistance.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

We believe strongly in choosing solutions and products that are good for our planet. The climate crisis demands our immediate attention, and we are proud to be able to contribute to solutions that help in the collective efforts towards net zero.

Cypher Environmental

What is your magic sauce?

We are 100 per cent Canadian. Our products are 100 per cent environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-corrosive, biodegradable, and organic. DUST/BLOKR is also EPA Safer Choice certified, meaning that our production process, from the sourcing of raw inputs to our packaging, meets the stringent requirements of the EPA Safer Choice approval process. Our products are high-performing, effective on sloped roads, can be mixed with any quality water, and can be easily adopted as no special equipment or application techniques are required. We believe that by lowering the barriers to adoption, more companies can be motivated to make the switch to an environmentally friendly and eco-conscious solution.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

In the next five years, we hope to open multiple manufacturing facilities outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba. We’ll be starting with another one in eastern Canada, followed most likely by Asia, to take advantage of logistical savings and raw material supplies. We’re also looking at mining-focused markets, like Chile, South Africa, and Australia, to establish offices and potential production facilities. Once we dramatically reduce the cost to produce the products through the logistical savings accrued by these new locations, we’ll no longer have to focus solely on private industries as we do now. We can’t sell our products to most government tenders due to outdated specifications with old-fashioned, low-cost products that are known to be highly toxic. When the cost is lowered for our end-users, we’ll become much more competitive with known products, like road salts and can successfully make the case to have governments switch to safer, greener options like DUST/BLOKR and ROAD//STABILIZR.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge we’ve faced is Greenwashing. The bulk of our competitors are all selling products that are known to be toxic to the environment, and yet there doesn’t seem to be a watchdog that exists to prevent these companies from making false statements about how their product interacts with the environment. So, a major challenge for us is to differentiate and show our end users that we are different. We talk the talk, and we walk the walk when it comes to providing cleantech solutions without exception. Taking this a step further, beyond the greenwashing challenges, we are also faced with competitors who lack the technical expertise we possess on our team through years of experience in the industry. Many competitors talk a big game but lack the technical know-how or product quality to back it up. Many customers have been burned by these unprofessional suppliers in the past, so we have to work even harder to show how we’re different and why our customers should put their faith in us. So overall, continuing to differentiate and stand out against our competitors remains a daily challenge that our team embraces as we continue to strive to help save the world one road at a time!

How can people get involved?

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