The Silicon Review
“Our VGM™ technology delivers significant competitive advantage and we constantly improve”: David Damian Ramjohn
Algae, some of the most important photosynthetic life forms on Earth, contribute significantly to the planet’s ability to sustain human life; they have been consumed as food and medicine, and used for skin care for centuries. Human consumption of the cyanobacteria called Spirulina (previously classified as blue-green algae) actually goes back to the Aztec civilization of the 14th century. Cyanobacteria such as Spirulina preceded true algae, such as Chlorella; these two are now the edible varieties most commonly used in supplements.
Moreover, algae as a feedstock have been used for many products and applications, and new ones are constantly being discovered. With the recent surge in interest to use algae as a feedstock for biofuels, there is growing interest in utilizing the Algal Biomass in an optimal manner – not just to produce fuel but also valorising the co-products of the process. Such an optimal utilization could make algae-based biofuels more economically viable.
AlgEternal Technologies, LLC focuses on reducing human dependence on fossil hydrocarbons and creating sustainable economic activity resulting in a healthier planet and improved quality of life for all, by harnessing the power of the planet’s primary producers: algae.
AlgEternal’s patented core technology, the Vertical Growth Module (VGM)™, has been recognized by the University of Texas at Austin as one of the best growth platforms in the world for algae production.
The company was incorporated in 2010 and is headquartered in La Grange, Texas.
David Damian Ramjohn, AlgEternal Technologies, LLC CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
AlgEternal intended to provide technology for growing microalgae at commercial scale to other algae companies. Its patented Vertical Growth Module™ (VGM) was proven effective during a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin and Georg Fischer of California, for biofuels from algal biomass grown in AlgEternal VGMs. After several years of little success selling the VGMs, AlgEternal targeted algae-based
products using its VGMs as the core technology. After being appointed CEO in 2016, I vertically integrated AlgEternal to go from raw material to finished products. As of Q2 2018, we have launched two product lines: Agtivate™ –an algae-based soil amendment; and the AlgAllure™ AlgaRiche™ Skin Care Collection, containing PhycoDerm™ –an extract from a marine red microalgal strain.
What challenges did you face in your initial years?
AlgEternal lacked leadership in its early years; although it had a solid core technology, there was no corporate structure or systems, policies and procedures in place to monetize the technology and govern the company. We exemplified the maxim that often the founder isn’t best suited to lead. Essential lesson: you must conduct a business like a business; you must transition from being an entrepreneur to being a properly run and governed business if you are to succeed.
Customer trust: It’s essential, but how do you earn it and, most importantly, keep it?
We deliver on our core values of Accountability, Service, and Quality to earn and keep consumers trust. We take care of our team and they, in turn, take care of our consumers. Every member of our team is an ambassador with vested interest in the company’s success, which manifests in service and quality excellence and treating our customers like royalty.
What are the factors that make your brand one of the smartest and why?
We don’t compete with nature; we emulate nature. We eschew biofuels in favor of the non-fuel products and ecosystem services from algae. Our VGM™ technology delivers significant competitive advantage and we constantly improve. We bridge the gap between science and business, harnessing the planet’s primary producers, microalgae, to manufacture useful products and provide ecosystem services faster, more efficiently and with greater benefits for humanity. We get microalgae to do what they’ve been doing for over 2.5 billion years.
Anticipating a post petroleum world, it’s safe to predict that microalgae will emerge as the only sustainable alternative to provide the non-fuel products from oil and gas as well as critical ecosystem services such as carbon capture and use, soil rejuvenation, nutrient recycling, and wastewater treatment that we need, and AlgEternal will be there filling that need.
What philosophy drives your company?
AlgEternal evolved beyond the ‘triple bottom line’ of ‘People, Planet, and Profit’; we adopted an ecocentric approach to making profits. Instead of considering ‘People’ as separate and apart from the ‘Planet’ we recognize humans as part of the planet’s ecosystem, no more important or intrinsically valuable than any other living organism. Ecocentrism means we operate with respect for nature as a whole and so secure the ability of all beings to live on the planet – including humans. Two central tenets of our philosophy are; the Circular Economy; and Conscious Capitalism.
What plans do you have for future products?
We will expand the AlgAllure™ AlgaRiche™ Skin Care Collection portfolio, and introduce specialized collections for men and women. For Agtivate™ we will continue research for diverse applications of microalgae for soil health and to differentiate our microalgae content according to soil types and geographic areas. We will reinvest revenue generated to increase our capability to produce many more high-value products from microalgae. We constantly evolve and innovate and intend to launch new microalgae-based products yearly and eventually offer algae-ecosystem services.
AlgAllure™ AlgaRiche™ Skin Care Collection was launched in May 2018, with four SKUs: Facial Serum; Daytime Moisturizer; Night Cream; and Facial Cleanser.
As a question on sustainability, where do you see your company in the future?
Sustainability could be our middle name. We incorporate sustainability internally and externally. Internally, the company built a solid business/economic platform based on microalgae. Externally, we recognize that humans must change their patterns of production and consumption from the linear model to a circular model if we expect this planet to continue being able to support our life form. Microalgae represent the best opportunity to keep planet Earth hospitable to humans. We intend to be the company that serves as the model for all future companies operating in the microalgae industry.
David Damian Ramjohn A Brief Background
David Damian Ramjohn, CEO of AlgEternal Technologies, LLC, is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago recognized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service as an “alien with extraordinary ability in science and business, sustainable development, and renewable resource management and applications [science]”. He holds a category O-1A visa, reserved for individuals in the top of their respective fields.
David won the 2004 Bishop Robert Smith Award from the College of Charleston, the 2002 Betty Spence Conservation Award from the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, and was the first recipient of the Bill and Jean Lane endowment to attend the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Research Training Program in 2002. He belongs to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, the Golden Key Honor Society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. David is a board member of the Noon Lions Club and the Rotary Club of La Grange, Texas. He appeared in the 2004 edition of Marquis ‘Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities’ and has been inducted into the 2019 edition of Marquis ‘Who’s Who in America’.
Mr. Ramjohn holds a B.Sc. in Marine Biology, cum laude, from the College of Charleston in South Carolina and an M.Sc. in Environmental Studies (Policy and Law).
“AlgEternal intends to be the company that serves as the model for all future companies operating in the microalgae industry.”