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I.D.E.A Fund Impact Story - International Zeolite Corp.

I.D.E.A Fund Impact Story - International Zeolite Corp.

By: Meredith Davis, Good Roots Consulting

Mark Pearlman is passionate about food security and the idea that good, healthy food is a basic human right. While pursuing a successful career as an executive with companies such as Walmart and Hewlett Packard, Pearlman offered his spare time and energy to various boards to ensure healthy food was available for people. As former Chair of the Toronto organization FoodShare and also the former Vice-Chair of the Ontario Food Terminal, he worked hard so that charitable food programs could more easily access fresh locally grown wholesale produce.

During his time at the Ontario Food Terminal, Pearlman met with a lot of growers, and one of their main issues was how to reduce their input costs for things like fertilizer and water. Pearlman, who is President and COO of International Zeolite Corp. (IZC), was fascinated with this problem from a food security standpoint and was introduced to a mineral called zeolite that’s mined out of British Columbia, and also found in Cuba, the U.S. and Europe. Until now, zeolite has been used primarily as a more sustainable substitute for road salt and in agriculture to absorb water and prevent the soil from drying out.

So how does this all relate to food security?

IZC team members with scientists at Niagara College Horticultural Innovation Centre.

Pearlman and his colleagues are learning that zeolite has the potential to simultaneously address the issues of world hunger and climate change.
In Cuba, a group of scientists with the University of Havana discovered that if you infuse soluble fertilizer into zeolite, the plant root is attracted to it and can take the nutrients it needs when it needs it. This innovation has three major benefits: 1) growers use up to 90 percent less fertilizer to get the same results, which significantly reduces their costs; 2) crops grow a lot faster, which means the potential to grow more food to feed the world; and 3) the more targeted release of fertilizer reduces methane emissions, which are associated with climate change.
IZC has acquired international rights to develop and commercialize this technology, and they have been confirming the huge potential of zeolite through their own validation studies in partnership with groups like Niagara College and various commercial growers.

IZC received funding from the i.d.e.a. Fund to support commercialization and to build up a portfolio of consumer-facing products. The i.d.e.a. Fund is supported by the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to provide high-potential businesses with seed funding and business advisory supports.

“I’ll tell you what the biggest win was out of it. It’s the network,” says Pearlman of IZC’s participation in the i.d.e.a. Fund. The company was paired with a mentor through Innovate Niagara who has opened doors that potentially could lead to exciting collaborations for IZC. The Ontario Farm Fresh Association, for example, is considering connecting Pearlman’s team with farmers so they can learn about what products they use and what products could help them, which will ultimately help drive adoption of what IZC has to offer.

Mark Pearlman (top row centre) with Dr. Vilma Hidalgo de los Santos, Director General of the University of Havana Foundation; and Dr. Gerardo Fuentes, head of the Nerea Science team at the University of Havana, along with members of the University of Havana Foundation and the Nerea Science team.

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