Houston innovators podcast episode 120
How this Houston innovator plans to make a sustainable impact — one algae farm at a time
If there's one thing Miguel Calatayud is passionate about it's conscious capitalism — and specifically that his company, iwi, a Houston-based food and nutritional supplement company, is striking the perfect balance between impact and profit.
The company has created a sustainable suite of products from innovative algae farming in the deserts of Texas and New Mexico. These football field-sized farms operate on desert land using just salt water and sand and produce algae sustainably — all while absorbing CO2. Calatayud says the farms even area able to reuse 98 percent of the water involved in the process.
"In the past, you had to choose between making an impact and making a profit," Calatayud says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "In our case, the way we built the company and the business model we put together, it's actually the opposite. The bigger the impact we make, the bigger the business we're creating."
With all this sustainability to boast about, Calatayud says it's not even the best part. Iwi's products, which include Omega-3 supplements, multivitamins, and even a forthcoming protein — all made from the farmed algae, are also very competitive products in the market.
"We've been growing significantly for one main reason," Calatayud says." It works."
"That's what's really driving the growth in the company because once a customer starts taking iwi, they don't go back to whatever they were taking before," Calatayud continues on the show.
Calatayud says iwi is ready to expand more internationally. The company recently closed an $8 million deal — $5.5 million in senior secured term debt and a $2.5 million direct equity investment — with GP Capital Partners, an investor and strategic partner for the company. The influx of funding will help iwi accelerate sales of its existing products and ramp up development, marketing, and growth of new protein-based product, according to the release. Iwi will also enter new international markets.
"What we are going to do with [GP] and other investors that we have is to take this brand to the next level," Calatayud says. "Last year, we grew 91 percent. This year, we are planning to grow around 200 percent."
Calatayud says the pond systems iwi operates are replicable, and as the company grows he could see building these types of algae farms across the world and even in the Middle East, creating jobs and opportunities globally.
Calatayud shares more about the impact he's making and why Houston is the ideal market for him to do it in on the podcast. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.