Despite the lockdown, the Startup in Residence participants are still very busy working on their prototypes and solutions. But what have they been up to exactly and how have they been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis? Time for an update! The first startup: SecGroep.
SecGroep is a technical and legal consultancy, with a focus on public space and urban development. The startup also participated last year, developing ground sensors to help maintain and prevent damage to city parks. This year, they’re going to sustainably tackle weeds growing near or on public roads, which are notoriously hard to get rid of. Co-founder Ruben Deddens talks about the progress SecGroep has made so far:
Has COVID-19 changed the way you do things?
“I think it’s safe to say we’ve been really lucky and it hasn’t really affected us. We work mostly for governments with long term contracts and once things settled down a bit and everyone was used to working remotely, we were able to continue without any real delays.”
Did your solution change during the course of the program?
“Somewhat. The challenge originally also included getting rid of exotic invasive species like the Japanese knotweed. These are species that don’t naturally grow here in the Netherlands, but are causing problems and are hard to get rid of. We decided early on to concentrate our efforts on fighting the most common types of weed in an environmentally friendly way.”
“Current weed control uses of mechanical methods like mowing, burning or steaming, but these methods often don’t kill the plant completely. And most herbicides are not very good for the environment. We brought different experts in the field together to come up with a herbicide that kills the weeds, but isn’t toxic to other plants or animals.”
What stage are you in now?
“We’ve just concluded the testing phase actually. We’re working together with a supplier from the US that produces herbicides to get rid of mosses and algae on walls. The biggest problem however, is that one of the compounds isn’t authorized for use in the EU, because it’s considered to be harmful. But that depends on the dose and in in lower doses it shouldn’t be harmful, so we tested that assumption in two different locations to analyze whether or not this product has a negative impact.”
How did the tests go?
“We had positive results! The compound is biodegradable and didn’t have any negative impact on both the soil and groundwater.”
What will happen in the next few months?
With the testing out of the way, we’re currently waiting for approval and authorization to start using it. In the meantime, we’re working on our proposal, along with a matrix to show the steps we’ve taken, things we’re working on and what still needs to be done.”