PODCASTS

Environmentally Friendly Natural Pavement Solutions

Environmentally Friendly Natural Pavement Solutions

 

Kip welcomes James Abner of Technisoil to the podcast to discuss the founding of his company and Techisoil’s innovative approach to landscaping.

 

 


 

 

Podcast Participants:

Graham Product Director Concora
Kip Rapp: CEO Concora
James Abner: VP of TechniSoil

 

Graham:

Hello everyone and welcome to the Concora Corner, a podcast dedicated to bringing you interviews and folks working in the AC and BPM industry. I’m one of your hosts Graham Waldrop, a director of product here at Concora. Today, we’re talking with James Abner, VP of TechniSoil. James breaks down how his company’s sustainable approach is changing the possibilities and reality of how landscaping can be accomplished in commercial and residential projects. We hope you enjoy today’s interview with James but before we begin, here’s a quick word from our CEO Kip Rapp.


Kip:

I wanted to thank everyone again for listening to our podcast. And if you’re interested in knowing more about Concora, we help building product manufacturers get specified and purchase more by providing a great web experience that’s bolted onto your website. It makes it easy for your architects, engineers, and contractors to do business online with you. We sum it up as three things. It’s providing a good web experience, good content and good tools. And we have some great tools such as middles, sustainability, project showcases or anything else needed by our design community to specify purchase products. We’d be more than happy to show you a quick demo and you can go to concora.com, to learn more with case studies and see how other customers have grown sales with our partnership.


Kip:

Well, thanks, James for joining our podcast today, I do appreciate it. And I know like with our other podcasts, it was definitely interesting talking to you about what you do with your product and I’m sure our listeners would definitely like to hear that. And I always love talking about. Well talking to founders and owners and their journey on how did they start the company? Why did they start? What problem they were solving? And so it’s definitely something that I enjoy talking about and I’m sure our listeners will too. So as we start out, James just would like to introduce you to our listeners. So if you can just tell us who you are, what you do, what your company does and what makes you different.


James Abner:

Well, Kip thanks for having me here. Look forward to chatting with you a bit here today. My name’s James Abner. I’m one of the founding partners and vice president for TechniSoil. We’re located in Northern California. We’re a research and development and product development and manufacturing company for landscape and hardscape products. That’s what originally got us into this market and we’ve expanded and we’ll talk a little bit about that later on. But it was sort of a unique way that we sort of started this company. It was back in 2008 was when this concept first arose and it happened to be at that time where the construction and housing market kind of crashed a bit. The projects that we had that my company at the time I had a company that was a consultancy for architectural products.

 

James Abner:

So my background had been in stone quarrying and fabrication for high-end residential projects. And that’s how I kind of met my business partners. And we did this stepping stone process right around 2008. But before 2008, back in the halcyon days when things were better with the economy, housing market was booming, et cetera. And I was doing projects throughout the West Coast, but when 2008 came around I always use the analogy of the Etch-a-Sketch and kind of overnight those projects disappeared. And I found myself in my late 30s kind of looking at the future sideways trying to think what I was going to do with my next endeavor.


Kip:

Got you. Yeah. So you, as you mentioned, yeah that was a tough time for a lot of people back in 2008, a lot of uncertainty. Yeah. Kind of like COVID where I have this once in a lifetime type of event and from a business standpoint, a personal standpoint, and then you moved into this product. So I’m really curious to what happened and how did you come up with this type of idea?


James Abner:

Well, so at the time like I said, I was working with architects, landscape architects, contractors, helping specify natural stone products for large scale projects. When that kind of dried up I started thinking to myself, “Hey, what can I do with my life?” So, first thing I did was enrolled in a night class at a community college, and took a class in green building and environmental design. It just sounded like something interesting that it would break up the monotony of worrying about what I was going to do with the future. I’d worked on a few projects in the past that had been lead certified and that’s the leadership and energy and environmental design program from the U.S. Greenbuild Council. So I had a little bit of an intrinsic interest in that as well. The teacher of the class was a unique guy by the name of Anthony Floyd.

 

James Abner:

He was an architect by trade. He was highly respected in the U.S. Greenbuild a community. And he was at the time and still is the head of the Greenbuild Department for the city of Scottsdale Arizona. And so I took this class, learned some interesting stuff about it, but one thing that I took away from it that I was interested in was what was considered natural pavement technologies. And natural pavement technologies were more or less alternatives to your standards hardscapes. Alternatives to asphalt, alternatives to concrete stone, concrete pavers, et cetera, usually using a crushed stone design with a stabilized agent to it. So, that’s kind of what got me pointed in this direction.


Kip:

Got you. And so I’m just trying to get the connection. So you were saying well you went to school and it was around environmentally kind of friendly technologies and what’s the connection to natural pavement and then you mentioned destabilizers, right? Because I imagine are the other things not as environmentally or were they the standard back then?


James Abner:

Natural pavements had been around for about 30 years, I would say, give or take. And they come in different shapes and forms. The most common whims are premixed stabilizers that come already mixed in the crushed stone mix. Some are topically applied, some are liquids that are mixed on site, but what we kind of found was there was always a limitation to what those products could do. The biggest void that we saw at the time was the fact that a lot of these products either didn’t have much of a durability component to them. They were expensive or they weren’t very assessable to the average homeowner contractor, et cetera. They were more regional than they were nationally available, et cetera. So, that’s when I saw an opportunity to maybe find a niche in the market that was sort of missing.


Kip:

Got you. So by itself the natural pavement type of materials were already environmentally friendly. But are you saying that they were problems with durability or they were expensive or not accessible?


James Abner:

Those were the main things. A lot of these were environmentally friendly. They didn’t have toxicity to them like a petroleum based product or a high carbon footprint like a cementitious product. But it was mainly from a durability standpoint, a cost standpoint and an accessibility standpoint for the end user.


Kip:

Got you. And so your interest it didn’t matter if it was residential or commercial. It was just being able to figure out if there was a better way of providing this material that’s more environmentally friendly?


James Abner:

True. And so we’re in that 2008 timeframe, 2007, 2008, when all this stuff was going down with the economy. So a lot of the larger scale projects more and around. So what I kind of noticed at the time was that the backyard projects weren’t going to be the $100,000 pool remodel and the whole hardscape thing. It was going to be more of a limited DIY style approach. People were doing little gazebos pathways to their gardens. Fire pits, tried to do the staycation, that became the coined term back in the day. People weren’t taking the vacations because the economy was down, but they were kind of making their little backyard into someplace that was a little bit more comfortable for them. So they might not be spending tens of thousand dollars on their backyard project, but there was many projects out there where they could spend a couple thousand bucks to spruce it up.


Kip:

Yeah. It’s kind of similar to like with COVID right. Everyone’s staying at home and they want to go outdoors and they want to have a better place. So I imagine there’s a lot of similarities. So now that you mentioned there’s this problem, and you had a passion for looking at this and back then it wasn’t geared towards the big projects and maybe it was the do it yourselfers back then. So how did you move from there? I mean obviously just knowing what a problem is, and a passion are two key ingredients but not the only ingredients to start a company.


James Abner:

So I started out working with a couple of local paving contractors. I would go out and bird dogs and projects. I’d find some projects, some smaller scale projects that I would bring in, have these paving, contractors use some of these existing technologies that were out there. And we got mixed results. Some of them turned out pretty good. Most of them turned out what I would call a C minus in terms of quality. They didn’t meet the expectations that I was hoping for at least.


Kip:

You were mentioning, were you working with these contractors just to use this type of natural pavement? Or were you thinking about better ways of using natural pavement at that time?


James Abner:

Well, it kind of evolved into the latter there. I was just trying to find a way to make some money in a down economy and was interested in this natural pavement. So when I got these mixed bag results over a dozen or so projects, that’s when I reached out to my current business partner and the president of the company, Sean Weaver. Now I’ve known Sean back from the stone business. He was a young man, entrepreneurial spirit. He actually owned and operated the San Francisco Brownstone Quarry, just north of the bay area. And he had some great ideas. He had some patents that he’d done in the past. Not only were we business associates, but we became pretty close friends over the time in the stone business. So I knew that he had a little bit more creative zeal than I did.


James Abner:

And could perhaps be the person that could add a little bit of inspiration into what we could do with the natural paving. So I put in a call to Sean and after about three months of poking and prodding and trying to get him on board with this concept, he calls me up one day and he’s like, “James,” he goes, “I know I haven’t been that motivated in this natural pavement stuff, but I tell you what,” he goes, “I have been working around with a few formulas.” He goes, “And I think I came up with a formula that just might work.”


Kip:

That’s awesome. So you were trying to make some extra money in a down economy, and you went to class and you were interested in this environmentally friendly type of natural pavement. And it sounded like you visited some contractors that you weren’t happy the results, and then you knew your buddy who … So it sounds like that you told them about this problem and you said, “Oh, well, these results are a C minus, can you help me with some formulation?” And over a period of a few months, he got back to you. Is that what you’re saying?


James Abner:

Exactly, exactly. And he’s like, “Hey, I think I came up with something that’s going to be easy to use. It’s going to be cost-effective and it’s going to be more durable than anything else that’s out there.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m all ears.” I’m like, “What’s the next step?” He goes, “Well, let me get some of this product together.” He goes, “You call up a handful of your landscape contractors. I got some contractors up in my neck of the woods. We’ll hand some product out for them to do some smaller scale projects, a 100 square feet here, 200 square feet there type projects. And let’s get their feedback. If their feedback’s positive, then we can maybe proceed.” And lo and behold, everybody that we handed our product to called us up within the next couple of weeks and said, “Hey, this was easy to use. Our customers are happy. We like it.”

 

Kip:

Yeah. And are these contractors normally using then this natural pavement or were they using something else as a standard?


James Abner:

I would say that the majority of the contractors that we initially worked with had either some rudimentary experience with, or had worked a bit with the other technologies that were out there.


Kip:

So how did you convince them even just to try your product out if this wasn’t one of their normal ways of providing work?


James Abner:

Well, the best way to do it was to give it to them for free.


Kip:

Oh, for free. Okay. Save them some money.


James Abner:

Exactly. It will grab a toss. It’s like, “Hey, no harm, no foul. Try it out for free.” It wasn’t a huge investment for us. Of course, we were having to expend some money in this process. But yes we more or less were mixing up some product for them, giving them some basic instructions of how to use the product, which was just a four step process. Same as it is today as it was the first day that we handed this stuff out. So when we started getting these positive results, back from the contractors we were like “Well, if you like it so much why don’t you talk to your local landscape supply yard and tell them about our product and say hey, if you bring this stuff in, we’ll buy it from you.”


Kip:

That’s awesome. Yeah. And that really nice switch too, you said it was the landscape supply yards?


James Abner:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Kip:

Yeah. Yeah. Now so with the contractors, so what’s an example project were they doing? Because you were mentioning these were smaller projects. Were they do it yourself projects where they would get hired by the homeowner, or was it something else?


James Abner:

Well, it might be a project where they’re coming in to build a gazebo or a fire pit that they might’ve just been putting gravel or some kind of decorative stone in and around those areas that wasn’t going to be stabilized even. But this was something that they could offer is that is an add-on to their customer to an existing project. So they didn’t have to wait and find it. You know, we tried to find some contractors that had some projects right away. So what might be a 100 square foot walkway to a gazebo, or it might be a 200 square foot circle around a fire pit or a patio off somebody’s back deck. Somebody who was looking for something a bit more natural, something that wasn’t going to be concrete, something that didn’t have the cost of a natural stone or a concrete paver, but still serve the purpose for what they were looking for.


Kip:

Oh, that’s awesome. So I really appreciate that where you had a problem and you very organically was able to test it out with real customers like these contractors way back when. And was that around what? 2008 or 2009 or?


James Abner:

This is touching on 2009 when we started throwing some product out there to the contractors to get their feedback. And everything happened fairly quickly. We were victims of our own success initially. Once again my business partner Sean, he had his own business going on. I still had my own business, even though I knew I had to readapt to the changing conditions of the economy at the time and the construction market. So before we knew it, we had some pre-orders. We had enough to be able to start commerce. So we were able to buy some bottles, get some labels printed up, get some brochures printed up, have enough money left over for the components for our formula for our stabilizer called Pathway Stabilizers. Still is the name of the product. Pretty well known out there in the market these days. And with this Pathway Stabilizer product we had probably two dozen landscape supply yards carrying our product within just a few weeks time.


Kip:

Awesome. So these landscape supply yards as you mentioned you were able to work a relationship with them I assume, with the contractors help to supply your products and is that then the genesis of being able to create that commerce?


James Abner:

Exactly, exactly. So, one thing led to another. We more or less fed the contractors the product that filled that niche for them, that supply side niche. They were able to transfer that onto the landscape supply yards. In California landscape supply yards are pretty abundant. You can’t go two miles down the road without seeing another gravel and stone supply yard. So one would hear about another having this product, then we’d get a call up saying, “Hey I heard you got a new product, the stabilizer we’re interested in it.” And before you know it, we had to start a company. And I’m based in Arizona, my business partner’s in Northern California, he had a maybe a 1,000 square foot. I might even be generous with the square footage, a 1,000 square foot warehouse facility on about a half acre parcel of land. And before we knew it we had that full warehouse overfilled with product and were supplying the regional market in California initially.


Kip:

Got you. So then you started in California because of your partner?


James Abner:

That’s where we were based out of being the eighth largest economy of scale standalone alone in the world doesn’t hurt having California as our backyard. So we were able to grow I think fairly quickly just because that California market was there for us. But lo and behold, after a few weeks of commerce and getting the ball rolling, we get a call from a sales rep and he’s like, “Hey, I’m going around and I see your product all over the place. I’ve been looking for a product like this for years.” He goes, “And here you guys have this product.” He goes, “Are you looking for a sales rep?” It’s like, well, I guess that’s the next step that we need to do was get a sales rep out there. And before you knew it, we had over a 100 landscape supply yards as our dealers within that first year out of the gate.


Kip:

Got you. And your sales person was selling to the supply yards?


James Abner:

He was a manufacturer’s rep. So he carried a half dozen different products, everything from masonry trials to rakes and shovels to other types of landscape products. So he already had that relationship. So that was helpful as well in getting the product out there to the masses.


Kip:

But he was directly selling to the supply yard to stock your product and convincing them-


James Abner:

He more or less was employed by us to be a representative for our company is kind of how that worked.


Kip:

Got you. Yeah. Well, that’s great. And were you saying back then, were there other competitive products on the market?


James Abner:

Well there were, and that’s why we kind of chose this retail approach, this easy to use readily available. We tried to make our product simple enough that a DIY or a do it yourselfer can install our products and still get contractor quality results. And the funny thing is over the years I have less problems with homeowners, DIY than I do with contractors because they’re not as set in their way. They’ll actually follow the instructions. You know what one step, two step, three steps-


Kip:

The four steps.


James Abner:

They’re not trying to cut corners or anything to that nature. So yes, there were other companies that were on a larger scale, but like I said with the market being truncated with the downturn in the economy with that recession happening, not only were those larger scale projects not as common, but the competition was a lot more intense. So we’re like we’re too small and we’re too young of a company to try to fight with some of these bigger entities. Let’s find our own. Let’s carve out our own little specialty niche for this product that right now has no competition.

So when we initially started this concept with the Pathway Stabilizer or stabilizing crushed stone mixes, we kind of had the only gig in town that was sold there through that distribution network.


Kip:

Sure. So what was the differentiator then? I didn’t quite get that.


James Abner:

Well, the other companies mainly concentrated on larger scale projects. They didn’t care about the smaller guys, the backyard projects, even the project we got projects in schools, office complex does things to that nature that might be a few 1,000 square feet. Not just a couple of 100 square feet in the backyard, but I would say that 90% of our projects initially were for those little smaller scale projects, just mainly based on the economy.


Kip:

I get that. So your competitors were focused on larger projects assumingly more complex. And as you mentioned your product could focus on the DIY folks and smaller projects. So my question there is with the DIY folks, I mean are they going to the landscape supply yards too? Or are they getting to know your product through the contractors?


James Abner:

Yeah, well a little bit of both. I mean, the one thing that we tried to separate ourselves from initially was trying to market our product very well. Have nice literature, have nice point of sale displays. Even when we were just breaking out of the box, the first thing that we did was develop these 12 by 12 display trays. So 12 inch by 12 inch that would display this stabilized crushed stone in the tray. So people could go in, knock their knuckles on it, take a look at it “Oh, that’s what this looks like.” Pick up a brochure that’s on the back of the tray, look at the brochure, within two minutes they’re an expert in how to use the product.


Kip:

Yeah. And so is that right? Is homeowners go into these supply yards also to do this-


James Abner:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Kip:

Okay. And so you made it very accessible, not intimidating, hands-on where they can see the purpose of what this product does and they have the confidence that they can actually do it themselves.


James Abner:

Exactly, exactly. And we’ve continued with that process now what I would probably say 75% 80% of our supply yards out there nationally. We have a point of sale rack. It’s more or less a five tiered rack where we can stage product that can be sold. We have those point of sale trays on there. And we also probably about seven years ago started to integrate a nice video monitor, usually in 32 inch video monitor on top that would actually show a video of our products. So right there, they have a video showing how the product’s done. They have a nice little easy to read brochure. They have a sample right in front of them that they can knock their knuckles on. So they can be pretty confident with how to use the product if the product’s applicable for their use without even having to talk to a floor rep there at the supply yard.


Kip:

And back then was your product also differentiated on the cost and the durability? So that’s also a difference for your customers?


James Abner:

Well, I would say that the accessibility and the durability were the two big components. Us going through a distribution network through a dealership network, of course the dealer has to have a markup on it. So there’s always going to be a little cost difference that way, but we have that loyalty from that dealer network that we’re not selling direct. And at that time, all of our competition per se or the other people that were making similar types of products, all sold direct to the end user. Whether it was a homeowner, whether it was a contractor, et cetera, but that would often discourage the dealer network from bringing in their product knowing that they could be sold from around the side so to speak.


Kip:

Got you. And I was talking to someone else James that talked about marketing to contractors versus DIY folks. Did you find that a difference or was that fairly similar?


James Abner:

You know, I think the approach was similar, because the landscape contractors, the homeowners they’re going into that same place. And usually they would go in, oftentimes they’d go in together or the homeowner would go in and say, “Hey, I went to ABC supply. I saw this product I’m interested in it.” And that might spark the interest of the contractor moreso than the contractor trying to talk the homeowner into it. But we kind of took that approach, if we market this well, we can get it from both angles where there’s no gray area, so to speak for who the product could be marketed to.


Kip:

Yeah. That’s awesome. So I guess two things from there. So if someone was starting their business just like you did many years ago one, what would you tell them? What are some key things that you would tell them? And two, if you had to do things over again, what would you do differently?


James Abner:

Well, that’s a heck of a question there in terms of what we would do all over again, and I don’t know if we would because you know the hard lessons that we learned are some of the most important lessons that we learned. I think fluidity, you can’t be static as a business because everything evolves and changes. The recession turned into a good period of time in the economy, and then we had to deal with the pandemic. And then the pandemic actually became a unique opportunity for us as well because a lot of these homeowners were working from home. So they had a little bit more flexibility with their time and resources, et cetera. And they’re in there with their significant other saying, “Hey, that backyard project that you’ve promised me for the last two years, now’s a great time for us to talk about that and we can do it this weekend.”

So actually last year 2020, we had probably a 15% gain in revenue as opposed to 2019. So it actually turned into a net positive for us. But I would say being fluid, not being static with the conditions out there, being ambitious. Now like I said, we started out with this one product. From that one product we’ve developed 12 other products. But being ambitious without sacrificing the stability of your company. We didn’t try to bite off more than we could choose so to speak. So we tried to wisely place new products into our catalog so to speak. And a lot of these new products that we would develop over the years came from feedback we would get from contractors. Feedback we would get from building supply yards.

“Hey, if you made a product that would do this, I know we could sell it.” Or, “Hey, I’ve been using this product, it doesn’t work that well. Do you think you can make something that works better?” And that’s kind of where we tried to find our foothold in the industry was not only try to develop products that had little to no competition, but to try to better upon existing products that were in the market.

 

Kip:

Got you. So, as you mentioned you started out as a product problem solver because of the formulation and you differentiated then on the supply chain of going direct to the supply yards and promising them that you wouldn’t sell yourselves. And as you mentioned you created niche to make it easy for both the contractors and the do it yourselfer folks. So, that all seems great. So I mean, it just seems like you have a huge basis around research and development and listening to these contractors. And I know we talked before James, that you are certainly focused on the innovation of what you do. So can you walk us through to where you are today? I know you had some great stories around how you’re taking your company and the innovation that you’re doing and you’re applying it to other areas.


James Abner:

Well, as I had mentioned we tried to have a good idea and expand upon it. One of my favorite quotes is out there from Linus Pauling “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” And don’t get me wrong, most of our great ideas will never see the light of day just because they weren’t as great as we thought they were at the time. But from then as I’d mentioned earlier, not only do we manufacture landscape and hardscape products that are sold through this retail market, we also have a research and development side of our company. And the research and development side of the company came from actually the golf industry. It was a superintendent at the California Club in San Francisco came to us and said, “Hey, we’ve been looking for alternatives for our golf cart paths for years. We’ve tried all of these other technologies out, and nothing really works.”


James Abner:

What do you have for us? So, that put us to the drawing board. And we started working on a product about five years ago, five, six years ago that we call G5. The letter G, the number five, G5. And this is a polymer that is mixed with the crushed stone, looks just like a natural crushed stone mix at the end of the day. But the nice thing with it, it can weather in all seasons, has up to 6,500 PSI. So you can almost get up to concrete strength with it. So the biggest issue with these golf courses, they had either the option of using asphalt concrete or these other technologies that just weren’t there. So from that point, we developed this G5 product for this golf course.


James Abner:

It served their purpose, they loved it. We have it at Pebble Beach and a few other major golf courses throughout the United States right now. From there, of course word gets around, architects, specifiers hear about this project or this product and the projects that we’ve used it upon. And three years ago, we were able to do the pathway system at the New Apple campus in the Bay Area. We were able to do some work with Google, Facebook, technology campuses throughout Northern California, became a big boom for this type of product, because they could get a natural look. It met those us Greenbuild characteristics for that lead certification, which is becoming ever more popular. And it was durable. It’s the only natural pavement solution out there, the G5 product that meets those criteria in terms of durability for all seasons, vehicular traffic, snow melt, there’s no susceptible.


Kip:

It solves a problem back when you’re talking about with the gentlemen at the golf course, where what was the kind of the standard product? I assumed it was less durable. It was something else. It was less sustainable.


James Abner:

Even with our landscape hardscape products we sell through the retail, the Pathway Stabilizer type products. They have a limitation. There’s an Achilles heel with most natural pavements. And usually that is heavy traffic, vehicular traffic mainly. And over-saturation from heavy water. Over irrigation, heavy rain events, snow melt, things to that nature have always taken those natural pavement technologies to their breaking point. And even though we have a great product there with our Pathway Stabilizer, there is a limitation for what it can do. We were able to overcome all those hurdles with this G5 product.


Kip:

Got you. And so that was just, as you pointed out there was a problem, but was this something that you were also innovating on as an alternative to the stabilizer? You had to create a material that just overcame those two impediments that you just mentioned?


James Abner:

Yes. Yes. I mean that’s the biggest challenge was that that durability standpoint. People wanting something natural, but nothing being available at that time to fill that need.


Kip:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). What is that I mean just for me, because I don’t know anything about this James. What does that look like? Is it look like some kind of … I kind of imagine like concrete material of some sort right? So I’m not sure


James Abner:

We deal mainly with liquids. So from our landscape hardscape products, the Pathway Stabilizers, all of our sealants, adhesant specialty products, 99% of them are water based. That’s what we do. The G5 product is also a liquid product. Now, what separates that is it actually does need to be mixed on site.

We’re using a portable pug mill. It can be used with a small mortar mixer, a tow-behind mortar mixer for smaller scale jobs. So what we do is we get the crushed stone mix, mix it in a percentage with the amount of G5 liquid, pour it in place, compact it like you would asphalt. So the concept for the G5 bound aggregate is similar to how asphalt’s made. You mix it, you pour it in place, and then you compact it either with a hand compact or a vibratory plate compactor, or a double drum drum asphalt roller.


Kip:

Got you. So does it look more like asphalt or more like my driveway which is more like aggregative stone, right?


James Abner:

Well, it’s going to look like a crushed stone mixed, it’s been compacted. To the naked eye you wouldn’t think it would be hard enough for a vehicle to drive upon or not erode away with the first rainfall, et cetera.


Kip:

Oh awesome, yeah.


James Abner:

So it has that natural look but it still has that durability of a traditional solid surface like an asphalt.


Kip:

That’s awesome. So I know we talked about some other things as far as … I mean you certainly have this passion and research and development to innovate and to innovate from an engineering standpoint. Which is really awesome, where you’re able to create a new product, new formulas, new materials. And I know we were going over an example of another innovation that you’re … Is that similar to the G5 or is that something different?


James Abner:

So things change in this world. Stepping stones is what I call it. So we first got into this market on kind of a lower level trying to feed the homeowners with a nice little backyard DIY capable product with the Pathway Stabilizer. That kind of transcended with this G5 product that could be more durable for pathways, commons areas, tech campuses, golf courses, museums. About three years ago we did the national museum in Doha Qatar, in the Middle East. And they did their entire facility inside and outside with this G5 product.

Well, within the development of this and I was mentioning my business partner earlier, I give him some more accolades. Sean’s a bright young man. He came up with a concept in where we can recycle existing asphalt roads. And using this same binder G5, which has just now been renamed Neo.


James Abner:

Neo is the name of the product now that is used for road recycling. So the Neo liquid is integrated with the old asphalt. It’s in a machine called a train. Now, if you go to Neo Pave, N-E-O P-A-V-E.com, Neopave.com, you’ll be able to see some videos of what this contraption looks like because it’s kind of hard to explain. But just think of something that’s about 30 yards long consisting of several pieces of equipment that are readily available in road reclamation equipment. So, the first part of the equipment digs up the existing asphalt road. The second part, crushes it back down to asphalt size. The third part, mixes it with our Neo binder. The fourth part puts it out in wind rows and then a painting machine comes out around behind it and you can more or less make a new road as you go. So instead of having to rip up old road and replace it with new road, we can use 99% of that existing asphalt and recycle it in place.


Kip:

So it just is able to not only reclamation I guess and tear up that asphalt, but then you can crush it, mix it, add your solution and then pave it down again. And then you said the paver’s behind it that’s just making it flat and compact?


James Abner:

Exactly. It’s going to look like a brand new road. Now, this process is called cold-in-place recycled asphalt. And it’s been used with traditional petroleum based asphalt emulsions in the past. What we’ve done with this new Neo, which is what G5 used to be, we’ve integrated about 10% of this as recycled plastic. So what we’re doing with Neo it’s diverting about 150,000 plastic bottles per lane mile from single use post-consumer waste products into a road system. It’s going to last about three times longer than a traditional asphalt pavement.


Kip:

That’s awesome. So you’re saying it’s more sustainable, environmentally friendly, more durable, and what about the cost then? Is there a difference?


James Abner:

Well, in most situations in most instances, it’s going to be a lot less because we’re not having to deal with the downtime. We’re not having to deal with removing tons of old material and bringing in fresh new material. We’re not using a petroleum product that has a limited lifespan.

We’re using actually a waste product as a part of our component in this Neo product. And with the plastic itself there’s been plastic asphalts in the past. India has used them in the past, there’s companies out of Australia, Canada, one out of Scotland, but they’re using it integrating it still within their own petroleum-based emulsion. We’re using a specialized emulsion with this plastic binder that’s not weaker than asphalt, not as strong as asphalt, but two to three times stronger than asphalt.


Kip:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Got you. So, with that you’re saying because of the entire process of replacement as you have it with that unified type of processing you have then overall it could be a lot less expensive. So awesome. Yeah.


James Abner:

Exactly, exactly. So it clicks a lot of boxes. We got fortunate. About four years ago when this program first started with the G5 aspect, we started working with the University of Nevada in Reno, their civil engineering department. And they probably did two year’s worth of R&D for it. They did testing, material testing, wrote designs, making sure that our product would work in the real world scenario. And from that spring board with the University of Nevada we’ve worked with here most recently, the city of Los Angeles. Actually, Mayor Eric Garcetti just announced a few weeks ago, that Streets LA, Streets LA is the road department for the city of LA. I forgot how many miles, but I think it’s close to a million street miles of road they have in Los Angeles County itself. They’ve signed on for a pilot program and partnered with Neo Pave, our new company to start working on road recycling there and in Los Angeles itself.


Kip:

And what is the main reason? Is it because of the cost? Is it because of the environmental friendly aspect? Is it the durability? I mean, is it all those reasons or is there something primary reason out there?


James Abner:

I think it clicks all those boxes that you just mentioned. It hits that environmental aspect that we’re using recycled post-consumer waste. We’re offering a product that’s most of the times less expensive than traditional asphalt would be. And then it’s going to be two to three times more durable.


Kip:

That’s awesome. Well, that’s great. I know we’re running up to the end of our session James, but that was awesome. I really appreciated just your story of starting back in 2008 and knowing the right people obviously because you had a need to make some side money, right/


James Abner:

I didn’t know my side gig could turn into such an opportunity. But just even having this opportunity with LA, we’ve been working with the California Department of Transportation. Last year, we were nominated as one of the top 10 most influential companies by Fast Company Magazine.


Kip:

That’s awesome, yeah.


James Abner:

And then just here recently in the last couple of weeks, we won an award from the American Society of civil engineers, their Game Changers Award for road technology. So the way it’s looking right now, we’re very fortunate to be where we’re at and we look forward to what the future brings us for sure.


Kip:

Yeah. Well, it’s exciting. And such a noble cause too because it’s rare that you can hit on a lot of check boxes as a product and sustainable, durable, cost-effective. And it sounds like with the people that you know and your partner you’re able to solve that through a technology, right? Being able to invent new things to make everyone’s lives better. And so I definitely wish you the best of luck at what you’re doing and appreciate the time here, James. If folks want to, reach out to you or your company, how can they do that?


James Abner:

Well, there’s a couple of different ways. Our retail side, our landscape and hardscape side is simply technisoil.com. That’s. And for anybody that’s interested in our natural pavement through Neo Pave that’s neopave.com. All of our contact information is on there and a plethora of unique information.


Kip:

Well, awesome. Well thanks again James. I appreciate it. Yeah, I’m really excited to get this one out in the market, our podcast that we’re doing today and yeah absolutely appreciate your time and look forward to talking to you again.


James Abner:

Hey Kip, thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.


Kip:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Graham:

All right folks, that wraps us up for today’s show. So you can find our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and SoundCloud by searching for the Concora Corner. And if you’d like to, we’d love a rating and a short review if you listen on Apple. Any feedback is appreciated on any of our shows that are coming out and/or just our show in general of if you just want to say hello.


Graham:

You can find out more about Concora and our services at www.concora.com. We’re on Facebook at facebook.com/concorallc. We’re on Twitter @Concora and you can find us on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/concora. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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