[les affaires] - Mauricie, a rich incubator for green technologies

October 13, 2021


Translated by Theron

REGIONAL FOCUS: MAURICIE. There was a time when the forestry industry dominated the Mauricie economy. That era has given way to a new one, in which clean technologies have become regional stars.

Several of them have already begun to make a name for themselves on the international scene. One example is Waste Robotics, based in Trois-Rivières, which develops robotized solutions for waste management. This 15-employee SME earns over 90% of its revenues - "somewhere in the seven figures", says marketing director Katherine Diamond - outside the country.

"At present, our technologies are winning over the American and European markets," says Katherine Diamond. Specializing in the manufacture of robots designed to sort residual materials and several recyclable materials deposited in the same bin, Waste Robotics has been operating for five years in a sector where competitors can currently be counted on the fingers of one hand, she estimates.

The cities of Dunkirk, France, and Delano, Minnesota, are among those that have adopted Trifluvian technology to manage their garbage collections. "Tests have shown that over 90% of discarded materials have been redirected to compost containers," assures the SME spokeswoman.

For the time being, a few RCMs have expressed timid interest in Waste Robotics' solutions in Quebec. We need to continue our lobbying to demonstrate to elected officials that buying our robots is twice as cheap as carrying out three different collections (garbage, compost and recycling) every week," maintains Katherine Diamond. By adopting our co-collection model, these MRCs could easily save $1 million annually per 100,000 inhabitants.

Long live electric vehicles

Ingenext's revenues also come mainly from customers outside Quebec. A rare company on the planet specializing in the trade of used electric vehicle parts, electronic modules and battery and motor controllers, this 18-month-old SME from Trois-Rivières already generates over 80% of its sales elsewhere in Canada and the United States, according to its General Manager, Guillaume André. He is also co-owner of the company with his father, Simon André.

Among the 1,500 or so customers attracted by its kits for converting gasoline-powered motor vehicles into electric vehicles, the company of some 15 employees includes several mining and airport companies, notes Guillaume André. The St-Hubert restaurant chain was recently added to the list. At the request of advertising agency Sid Lee, Ingenext transformed an old 1967 Volkswagen Beetle into an electric car in the colors of the rotisserie, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

In Shawinigan, it's only a matter of time before Theron crosses Quebec's borders. Based at the DigiHub incubator, this SME aims to commercialize its electric all-terrain vehicle, the Reever, over the next 12 months. The three designers of this ATV (Bastien Theron, Michael Jomphe and Philippe Lafontaine) have been fine-tuning their product for five years.

With financial support from the Centre d'excellence en efficacité énergétique, Investissement Québec, Rio Tinto and the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, the company plans to produce around ten examples by the end of the year. "These ATVs will serve more as showcases for developing future markets," says Philippe Lafontaine, one of the three shareholders. Three vehicles already serve as demonstrators, "and all three are really put to the test", insists the man in charge of product design and marketing.

A second round of financing was launched this summer to raise over $1 million, with the aim of manufacturing around 100 vehicles by 2022. The Theron team is also looking for a sufficiently large site for its future factory, if possible in Shawinigan.

Unsurprising success

The success of these green-tech companies comes as no surprise to Alexandre Ollive, General Manager of Groupé, a business community comprising over 180 Mauritian companies in seven sectors. The Mauricie region has become a rich cradle of green technologies," asserts the man who has held this position for the past five years. These companies make up one of our most dynamic sectors, containing the largest contingent of our group, i.e. 64 SMEs." He points out that more than 35% of the investments made by Groupé member companies over the past two years have come from SMEs active in this field of innovation.

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