Entrepreneur and environmentalist
Enterprising Woman of the Year 2015, Sandra Sassow, is the CEO and co-founder of SEaB Energy Ltd – a multi-award-winning developer and manufacturer of patented micro power plants which use anaerobic digestion technology to convert organic waste into energy. In just six years her company has gained unprecedented international recognition and won award after award in its pursuit of clean technology solutions…
After identifying a need for a greater choice of distributed power generation options in the renewables sector, SEaB Energy was founded by Sandra Sassow and her husband Nick over 6 years ago. Today the specialist company is gaining increasing recognition as one of the most innovative and fastest growing Cleantech companies in Britain.
After recognising early in her career that working in a big corporate setting wasn’t for her, Sassow realised she wanted to work with fast-paced smaller companies in a profession that was rewarding. With a father who is an inventor and, by her own admission, a large entrepreneurial family, Sassow set her mind on a career that would satisfy her entrepreneurial spirit while also giving something back.
Based at the University of Southampton Science Park in Chilworth, SEaB has developed patented products, Muckbuster® and Flexibuster™ – compact, easy to install, turnkey Anaerobic Digestion (AD) systems in shipping containers.
The turnkey, waste to energy systems, have the multifaceted benefits of producing gas, heat, electricity, fertilizer and mulch, while also being environmentally friendly and generating revenues in parts of infrastructure where income is usually lost.
AD, the process by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, has the dual application of managing waste and also producing fuel; insoluble organic materials are broken down to produce desirable by-products, such as biomethane. This organic reaction contributes to reductions in harmful emissions and waste put in to landfill, while also recycling the nutrient-rich digestate by-product as fertilizer.
When explaining her vision for the future, Sassow is quoted as saying that “Our ultimate goal is to create a source of energy where we can bring electrification, sewage treatment and clean water to isolated areas all over the world” Sassow has seen increased appeal in developing countries for her systems, where nations and users in remote locations need to tackle growing waste issues and reduce their reliance on imported fuel. She explains that: “As first to market with a mobile solution, we have attracted worldwide attention. There is more interest in clean tech investment as fuel costs face ongoing rises. We need to decentralise how we manage waste conversion, to offset pollution, and turn it into energy. It has applications for the World Health Organisation, disaster recovery and so many sectors.”
SEaB has already gained unprecedented international recognition – selected from over 500 applicants, they are backed by NASA initiative ‘LAUNCH: Beyond Waste’ as a provider of a global technology that could help address climate change.
In 2013 SEaB won the US Defence Energy Technology Challenge (DETC) that promotes ‘innovative energy solutions to increase the safety of its troops, lower energy costs and reduce reliance on foreign energy supplies.’ In this instance, DETC were particularly impressed with the potential of the technology; the unit is easy to move and set up quickly and can be operational within a matter of hours of installation. Portable toilets can also be attached to feed in to the system – taking care of both sanitation and power demands.
Going from strength to strength in such a short space of time, the company and its CEO have won an impressive 13 awards, with Sandra herself being awarded with, amongst others, the ‘Enterprising Women of the Year Award’ by Enterprising Women magazine in 2015 and ‘Eco Entrepreneur of the Year 2013’ at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
The portable, easy to install and cost effective nature of the AD systems produced by Sassow’s company have the potential to tick boxes for consumers with a variety of different needs. They are an example of innovative thinking and a step towards enabling individual organisations to have more control over how their waste is managed – without it impacting negatively on revenues.
Aside from the obvious economic advantages, the potential quality of life applications are extremely promising. Commenting further on this, Sassow explains that “Distributed power generation is changing the balance of power by allowing everyone to create their own source of energy. We are game changers in the circular economy, to make sure that everyone has access to sustainable energy in remote areas. Good people can grow and nurture themselves into challenging roles – you just need to create the space for them.”