Checkerspot is a biotechnology company that designs high performance ingredients and materials for a better planet. Their Wing® Platform enables their biology and design labs to develop, test, and commercialize award-winning products that aim to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels and other unsustainable sources of oil. The company seeks to accelerate the adoption of renewable, biobased products that engage directly with consumers and show what is possible in industrial materials, outdoor recreation, personal care, and food and nutrition.
Interview with Matt Engler, Senior Director, Business Development at Checkerspot.
Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?
Matt Engler: Checkerspot develops new biotech innovations and is expanding the reach of its algae-derived materials and ingredients to improve the performance and sustainability of consumer products. Our materials and ingredients are commercialized both B2B and B2C, through brands we launch to animate our technology.
E.E: What’s the news about new products?
M.E: Through our WING® Platform, we dial in the performance of our biobased polyurethanes and engineer them into skis and snowboards, which are sold through our award-winning outdoor recreation brand WNDR® Alpine. WNDR Alpine recently launched technical apparel featuring an algae-based wicking finish that performs as well as petroleum-based finishes but with an 80% lower carbon footprint, as well as four new hard goods models equipped with biobased materials that outperform petroleum incumbents: Nocturne 88 and Vital 98 Backcountry Skis and Shepherd Solid and Split Snowboards.
The most recent product out of the WING Platform is a lightweight biobased foam core for water skis, designed to meet sport-specific performance metrics while displacing traditional petroleum-based inputs. HO Sports, a leading watersports designer and manufacturer, will debut the algae-based foam core in its new Sabre Water Ski, available for purchase at select retailers and online stores for the 2024 season.
Last year, we also launched the Pollinator® Kit (https://www.pollinatorkit.com/), a direct-to-designer cast polyurethane system with 56% biobased content. Earlier this year, the Kit won the SXSW Innovation Award in the Design category. We recently launched additional formulations (flexible casting resin, semi-rigid casting resin) in varying sizes, with more in the pipeline.
E.E: What are the ranges of products?
M.E: We have five materials currently on the market, representing a wide range of industries:
Algae oil, high in oleic acid, used in food, nutrition, and personal care applications as well as in industrial applications as a lubricant and plasticizer.
Cast polyurethanes, reaching up to 66% biobased content (ASTM D6866) and used in a myriad of industries including outdoor recreation, automotive, and fashion.
Polyurethane foams, reaching up to 41% biobased content (ASTM D6866) and used in a myriad of industries including outdoor recreation, automotive, and retail displays.
miDori bioWick WA, a 100% biobased textile wicking finish derived from algae oil and commercialized by our partners, Beyond Surface Technologies
SpiralMade® Materials, a recycled composite of fiberglass, wood and Checkerspot’s algae-based cast polyurethane, derived from reclaimed production waste.
E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?
M.E: We operate in many different markets, all at different stages.
E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?
M.E: Consumers are increasingly demanding more sustainable material and ingredients in the products they interact with day to day. In response, many of the world’s largest and most important brands have set GHG reduction targets for themselves, but that they are struggling to meet. We receive inquiries from brands looking for solutions almost daily. We are accelerating change the world needs to meet these demands for more eco-conscious materials, without sacrificing performance.
E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?
M.E: Our biobased cast polyurethanes and polyurethane foams allow brands the opportunity to design products with specific performance capabilities built from a renewable material – algae oil. WNDR Alpine pioneered these materials in winter sport hard goods when it launched in 2019. Since then, its skis have won Outdoor Retailer’s Innovation Award and a couple ISPO Awards, and have been selected as Editor’s Picks for both Backcountry Magazine and Freeskier.
E.E: What estimations do you have for 2024?
M.E: We’re excited to introduce even more ingredients and materials into the different markets in which we work: outdoor recreation, personal care, and food and nutrition.
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