Written by: Stuart Foxman

Many commercial and industrial settings use activated carbon air filters to regulate odours, by removing volatile organic compounds and other airborne contaminants. In places like factories, hospitals, greenhouses, paint rooms and more, the process is the same. Buy a filter, use it until the carbon becomes exhausted, then buy another filter.

Now, Blade Filters of Toronto (bladefilters.com) has created a simple yet innovative alternative: a replaceable carbon cartridge.

Replacing the inner carbon cartridge is about 30% cheaper than replacing an entire filter, says Giancarlo Sessa, one of the company’s three co-founders. So while a Blade Filters unit is about 15% more expensive up front, it’s a far more cost-effective system ongoing.

“Just slide out the old and slide in the new,” says Sessa.

Users have no need to throw away the unit anymore, as they retain the outer shell. Blade Filters’ shells are therefore built to last. They’re made from stainless steel, while the end caps are made of aluminum, and the carbon cartridge is made from cold-rolled steel.

Blade Filters also uses superior pelletized carbon, which creates a more uniform packing of the particles bed. That leads to an even airflow, preventing uneven exhaustion of the carbon.

Sessa and one of the other co-founders, Aedan Fida, are in their last year of studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business. The other founder, Aedan’s brother Joseph, graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Ryerson University.

The idea for the business started with Joseph Fida, who grows tropical plants at home. He noticed that one of the most expensive parts of his hobby was replacing his carbon filter. Why did he have to chuck the whole thing when all he really needed was an insert?

When the partners were seeing if their idea was viable, they reached out to dozens of hydroponic stores. Half had tried to replace the carbon in their filters themselves, without much luck. It’s difficult to do, it creates a mess, and you can never really pack the carbon as tightly as what comes from the manufacturers.

The partners saw a business opportunity. As they mention, innovation in the carbon air filtration industry is stagnant.

Blade Filters won three stages of the Norman Esch Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards from Ryerson University, and raised about $43,000 in grants to get off the ground.

John Allen, the Fida brothers’ stepfather, came in as COO to help with manufacturing and logistics (he had recently retired from a high-level management position in the manufacturing industry).

While the replaceable cartridge has many commercial applications, Blade Filters is focused for now on the cannabis industry. They have a stack of purchase order intent forms, and are ready to hit the market by early 2019. Initially, Blade Filters will sell their products through three channels: their website, business-to-business (e.g. hydroponic stores and distributors), and licenced producers.

Sessa says launching the business is a risk, but he and his co-founders have a go-for-broke spirt: “If you never try it, you never know.”

He figures their youth is an advantage when it comes to entrepreneurship. Although he’s confident of success, “The younger you are, the more room there is for failure,” he says. “You can always use the experience as a lesson for the next thing you’re doing.”

Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real