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By Carol Moreira

In July, the life sciences industry in Halifax continued to see strong growth, fuelled by innovative ventures that are combatting COVID-19.

There were also advances in the oceantech ecosystem in July, and several IT companies announced significant milestones. But the big news in the Halifax Innovation District was in biotech, especially the impressive rise of publicly listed Sona Nanotech.

Sona traditionally makes gold nanoparticles for use in diagnostic testing. It has adapted its technology and is now developing an inexpensive, rapid test for COVID-19 and other diseases. The company’s shares, which are listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, skyrocketed after clinical trials demonstrated its testing product has a 96 percent sensitivity to the COVID-19 virus.

The company said its test gives quicker results, is cheaper, and requires less complex equipment than others.


vLife Supports Local

Social enterprise vLife, which helps users support small, local businesses in Atlantic Canada, has rolled out the paid version of its service.

The platform allows users to sign up for free and search for local businesses. VLife directs users to a website or storefront.

CEO Melanie Little said vLIfe helps businesses that can’t access the same marketing infrastructure as franchises and chains. vLife also develops site listings for client companies at no extra cost.

vLife chose to focus on local businesses because of their belief in the “triple bottom line”, meaning people and planet are as important as profit.

“Because we have a growing number of ‘buy local’ and ‘experience local’ followers, you’re going to get a more engaged lead than you would typically on a Facebook ad, for example,” Little told Entrevestor.

Charcoal Offers Programmatic Ads

Charcoal Marketing and Toronto’s Sugar Estate Media have created a digital media trading desk that allows Charcoal’s clients to access programmatic advertising – advertising which automates the process of buying digital media via software, relying on algorithms to deliver the right ad to the right website at the right time.

The trading desk will permit SMEs to access programmatic advertising on leading digital platforms, including Amazon, Google and Verizon, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

“An independent trading desk is a great equalizer for small businesses, who can now access the digital media networks that were once only available to big spending brands,” said Charcoal CMO Mike Hayes.

Modest Tree Aids Auto Security

Modest Tree, a specialist in augmented and virtual reality training for manufacturers, has gained the internationally recognized Level 2 TISAX (Trusted Information Security Assessment Exchange) certification for use in the auto industry.

In a statement, the company said the certification recognizes its strength in protecting the secure exchange of sensitive automotive manufacturing information across industry segments.

“Modest Tree is now well-positioned to further accelerate the global use of immersive learning and marketing technologies across the automotive supply chain,” said Sam Sannandeji, Modest Tree CEO.

Investment Boost in Oceans Sector

Dal News reported that The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) received a grant of $13.4 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund. The federal government has now awarded the Dalhousie-based group $27 million. OTN is the only MSI-funded national research facility in the region, Dal News said.

“This investment from CFI will allow OTN to continue serving its Canadian and international research communities - a network of 600 researchers and counting - who use OTN's infrastructure and data systems to track and analyze animal movements in the face of changing marine ecosystems,” said Dr. Sara Iverson, OTN’s Scientific Director.

OSC Funds $29M Ocean Project

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster has unveiled a $29 million initiative that uses artificial intelligence to monitor the health and movement of fish stocks and forecast their behaviour. The Ocean Aware initiative will receive $13.74 million from the Canadian government through the regionally located supercluster, with the remainder coming from private industry.

One of five federally supported superclusters that co-fund R&D with industry, the Ocean Supercluster was formed in 2018. It will spend $125 million of government funds in supporting $350 million worth of R&D over five years. Ocean Aware is the third project the group has announced.

Local businesses supporting the project include Emera, Nova Scotia Power, Irving Shipbuilding, Dartmouth Ocean Technologies and Xeos Technologies. Dalhousie University is among the institutions involved.

The focus will be on designing sensors that can be attached to fish or located in marine environments, allowing the transmission and storage of data and the creation of AI software capable of visualizing and predicting fish behaviour. It’s intended the new technologies will help in managing the health of farmed fish.

Cleantech Companies Get Federal Funding

Two Halifax companies were among 17 Canadian ventures to receive federal government funding through Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s seed fund.

Betakit said the selected ventures receive between $50,000 to $100,000.

The Halifax companies include Reazent, which makes organic replacements for agrochemicals. Its products assist with crop yield growth, disease control, and abiotic stress resistance in the agricultural industry. The startup was nominated by the Verschuren Centre.

The second venture, ReelData, is developing artificial intelligence and computer vision software for aquaculture, providing fish farms with real-time metrics. The startup aims to cut fish feed and mortality by tracking metrics such as fish health, hunger, and weight. ReelData was nominated by Innovacorp.

Carol Moreira is a Principal of Entrevestor, which provides news and data on Atlantic Canadian startups.