Friday, 29 June 2012

Interview: Markos Papadopoulos CEO, Z2O Limited

Interview: Markos Papadopoulos CEO, Z2O Limited
1- Z2O is what we call a new innovative SME. Can you tell us more about your company?
Z2O was born from the result of 30 years of research in the area of naturally occurring bacteria and their effect on the environment we live in. The technology behind the bacterial processes is over 4.5 Billion years old. However the understanding of how Bacteria work has only just now started to be understood by scientists. Over the years the inventors of the products of Z2O have developed these products by focusing on the workings of certain mother strains of bacteria and their effects on mainly bioremediation and soil healing. Our products do not contain any genetically modified material, or chemicals which damage the environment.

2- You cover several important sector such as nutrition, remediation, and clean tech, could you elaborate?
Our company’s activities and products development are focused around three main sectors of commercial activities: Energy, Food, and Food Security. Food Security is at the centre of our strategy for the future and I will elaborate on this in due course.
Our involvement in the energy sector is threefold:
a. On the one hand we address the bioremediation of soils and water bodies contaminated by the Oil & Gas activities, and other activities involving the use of Hydrocarbons, and
b. on the other we address Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) through microbial processes (MEOR). Nowadays no more than 30% of the proven reserves can be recovered. The Microbial technology we offer can increase this recovery to close to 70% and even 100%. This will reduce automatically the continuous demand on new land and offshore areas to be explored for Oil & Gas and will release it as arable land and protect any bodies of water from further exploration.
c. Finally, our waste water treatment products are able to degrade the cellulose in wood waste and food waste in mono or bi-saccharides, which in turn are the perfect feedstock for the production of biofuels. Cellulose from wood waste is vastly unused at the moment and we are having to turn to easier feedstock like food commodities to produce our bio-fuels. This combined action is destined to regenerate contaminated soils into arable lands available, and to increase significantly the recovery of proven Oil & Gas reserves that cannot be recovered with the available technologies, whether chemical, or mechanical. Finally the development of our products for degrading cellulose are releasing the food commodities to our food chain and will no longer be able to influence the ever rising prices of these commodities.

In the Food sector our intervention is mainly in agriculture and aquaculture.
a. In Agriculture our products are formulated to treat arable land that has been degraded by decades of use of chemical fertilisers, and regenerate this soil so that production with much higher yields can be resumed. We have experienced up to 45% in yield increases on average and in some soils the yield increase reached up to 60%. The treatment of these soils has also significantly reduced, and even eliminated ground and surface water contamination. We also intervene at the level of cattle where we offer microbial products that are added to the feed or drink of cattle and improve the food assimilation of the cattle resulting in higher weights in less time. We have witnessed up to 30% increased weights in cattle using our products with a 20% time reduction on their growth.
b. In aquaculture, our products are achieving some spectacular results in brackish as well as sea water. The main aim of these products is to eliminate any harmful bacteria in the water of the marine animals by competitive exclusion, which at the same will increase exponential their ability to resist any viral infection. Using a variety of our products, we have been able to reduce post-larval mortality in a high intensity brackish water shrimp farm from 95% on average to less than 5%. At the same time, the weights of individual shrimps by 35% on average. In open ocean and despite the outside factors the increase in yield was around 45%, the mortality reduced to under 20%. In both cases the full cycle from post-larval to harvest was reduced from 24 to 20 weeks. These results can be expect to reflect in all other types of aquaculture such as Fish, oyster, mussels, farming and the likes.
c- Food Security is at the centre of our strategy: This is our vision, our statement of faith. Food security is not only providing food for everybody but more importantly providing accessibility to food for everybody. That includes providing the accessibility with affordable means to everybody. The resources for food production are becoming scarcer by the day due to industrial, mining and energy activities putting increasing pressure on the food resources. Although the problems of food security are enormous, they are not impossible to resolve: let us take the example of a small community of say 1,00 people in a lost corner of Africa: They have no immediate access to food due to their degraded arable land, often contaminated by industrial or exploration activities, who have to travel several miles a day for access to water and food or depend on hand-outs for their food: International organisations are increasingly working on shoe-string budgets. Most of the time the food cannot even reach these communities for various reasons including robbery, war lords activities and other natural reasons. We can intervene and regenerate the soil for agriculture, secure clean water for irrigation and cattle, growing and to create an aquaculture accessible to all in the village. Utopia? Not at all. This could be achieved in less than 12 months, and the larger the community the bigger the operations. The people within that community will have had secured access to food, the running of the operations requires very little technology, and the supply is secured with minimal influence of outside factors. Why nobody had thought of that before? Everybody had thought of that as the ideal solution: but the technology was not available: these project cannot be achieved with chemical fertilisers and aquaculture with sometimes 100% mortality.

3- It’s interesting the way you address these issues! What are the main driver of your activity?
As stated the main driver of our activity is Food Security. One important element of Food Security in of course the Biomarine environment. We have been witnessing over the past couple of years an increased interest in our products not only from producers of marine and water based food, but also from the polluters of the marine environment ( “the bad guys so to speak”) to embrace the solutions we offer through our products. Food producers are looking to increase their yields and therefore their revenues, and reduce their dependence on state aid, and polluters are looking to minimize their risk exposure to back breaking penalties, by working to be compliant with environmental regulations. In all areas there is an increased awareness of the environment and the need to protect it, some are more urgent than others, but all tend to achieve the ultimate purpose, which is a healthy Industrial and Energy activity that is environmentally friendly, and a better supply and access to food for all.

4- Could you give us some example of contract you are working on?
The Bioremediation Industry, and the Oil Industry have proven to be the industries that are urgently looking for solutions to bio-remediate the effects of their activities in many areas, and at the same time looking to increase the amount of oil they can recover from their proven reserves in order to maximise shareholders return on investment. We are currently negotiating contracts with major, and less major oil companies for cleaning up Oil storage tanks from their residues, treating oil going through pipelines to secure a better and seamless flow of the Oil, and treating wells and oil reservoirs to secure higher oil recovery from the proven reserves. We are also negotiating contracts in Africa, South America, and the Middle East to secure the bio-remediation of vast lands contaminated with very high levels of hydrocarbons.
Concurrently, we are investing a lot of effort in trials with the commodities producers such as wheat, soya, corn, and the likes that have allowed us to start negotiating with major commodities traders who have secured farming land to support their trading activities.
Finally we are supplying shrimp farmers in the US and South America with products that have made a big difference in their operations, whether qualitatively, quantitatively or financially.

5- This is your first participation in BioMarine, why are you interested by this growing sector?
Biomarine, together with agriculture, is at the heart of Food Security as we have discussed in previous questions. Z2O alone cannot go far in promoting its strategy, and we need all the assistance we can get in order to achieve our goals. Our participation in Biomarine 2012 will go a long way in creating for us a consistent network that will help us achieve our goals in growing the sector, and at the same time benefit all our partners in Biomarine.

6- You are the industry partner of the marine biotech for environment think tank. What are your expectations?
Let me first say that Z2O is proud to be part of Biomarine 2012 and the think tank that identifies best with our activities. We see this participation as the stepping stone for building up a network of people with similar goals, and in the longer term to be able, with Biomarine to put forward innovative policies, to governments and International organisations, that will result in eliminating in the long run the need for subsidies in all food industries (policies that most countries can hardly afford nowadays) and at the same time secure a better environment.
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