Twelve months ago, my co-founder Grant Jobb, Dan Chinnick (a mutual friend and finance expert) and I kicked off a weekly meeting that we dubbed the “Ice Meet-Up”. Grant, a serial inventor and ice expert, had created the first new way to make ice in over 75 years. Our objective was to explore the potential of commercializing this innovation.
Much of my career has involved designing and evolving business models for technology companies, and the big question for me was whether the technology could be paired with a winning purpose-driven business model.
What we needed was a transformative model that would make us the kind of disruptive new market entrant written about by Clay Christensen. The goal was to have a big impact on both customer experience and sustainability. Our target was the $6 billion dollar packaged ice market.
Dan had been closely following a technology company called Cubic Farms, which builds containerized ag technology and growing systems. I had designed a business model earlier in my career involving containerized deployable training technologies for defence, aerospace and heavy industry. So it was not surprising that we quickly arrived at the concept of decentralized containerized ice production built on the foundation of Grant’s invention.
The business models that inspired us had three common elements at their core: (a) automation, (b) deployability and (c) efficient small footprint technology. This is the recipe that we believed would make it possible to produce a premium product/service at a lower cost while increasing sustainability.
This is the point when I got really excited. Re-localizing food was already a personal passion. I’d spent several years on the board of an amazing charitable organization (Santropol Roulant) that was actively democratizing local food production. Inspired by them, I had already incubated two business concepts relating to local food.
But neither concept was as compelling as launching a food revolution on a foundation made of frozen water. The working name for the winning launch project was PurCube, a play on our containerized micro-factory concept and our ice.
In January 2021, we formally incorporated the business, in-licensed Grant’s intellectual property, and got to work. We also brought on a co-founder, Graham Campbell, who brought the skills needed to develop a platform for decentralized ice production in a world where automation technology is typically designed for industrial scale.
In just a few months it became clear that the environmentally disastrous practice of trucking frozen water over long distances (in some cases >2,000 miles) could be replaced with a more sustainable alternative that we called “The Better Ice”. The unique dynamics of the packaged ice industry also make it particularly vulnerable to logistics disruption, making ice the ideal beachhead market.
What's more, the more we talked with grocery retail, automation and foodtech leaders, the clearer it became that micro-factories have the potential to transform more than just ice. Re-localizing food became our new mission.
Now it’s September, and things are getting real.
After months of hard work, I’m excited to publicly announce that we will be kicking off ice production in November. Our first micro-factory will be deployed in Ontario and our 2nd will be deployed in the USA early 2022 in partnership with our launch customer (more on that in the future).
The time has come for us to move from the working name of our project, PurCube, to something more permanent. After considering many name options in our search for one that would befit our mission to re-localize food, it became clear to us that we already had our name. It was one we were already using to describe our intention to transform how and where food is made.
We are making food local again, starting with packaged ice.
We are Relocalize!
The revolution to decarbonize and re-localize food formally launches today. Are you with us?