Ecabiotec Middle East made news with Clean Middle East back in 2016, announcing the first running factory of its kind in the region. Since then, with electrolyzed water’s wider market penetration as a growing trend in disinfection and hygiene applications, Co-Founding Partner and CEO, Lamis Bin Harib of ecabiotec Middle East Manufacturing LLC, returns to share the company’s developments as well as respond to common questions and misconceptions in this growing hygiene market.
Generalised expertise and diverse market R&D
Upon market entry, ecabiotec ME’s wide spectrum application line in diverse disinfection verticals including water treatment was an ambitious start to a market with low presence of similar technologydriven solutions. Ecabiotec AG, the German head office and patent developer behind the wide line of disinfection and deodorization solutions, had paved the way for a water market in drinking water and Legionella treatment in public residences in Germany; the road in the GCC was quite different.
Bin Harib elaborates, “Our start in water ended up in algae treatment in water features such as artificial lakes in public parks; and we grew in the UAE veterinary market with our previous CEO and toxicologist Dr Hisa Lootah’s vision and network in some key veterinary markets and dealing with the right distributing partners at the time for new market penetration. This proven safety in water and animals and birds, paved the road for wider applications in surfaces, public fogging and healthcare.”
She continues, “On top of that, our entire team is technically driven as specialists; with our sales and client support team always including engineers, public health specialists, botanists and only dealing with specialized distributors in each market segment. This allows us to retain a high level of expertise in our end support and in many cases work as a consultancy to many disinfection treatment projects as well as being able to develop high quality case studies in the current electrolyzed water hygiene landscape across many industries.”
FROM ECALIT to IMEALIT
The ECA in ecabiotec stands for Electro-Chemical Activation under the original ECALIT patent - the beginnings of the technology were developed almost two decades ago, and it was rooted in existing developments in electrolyzed water technology. What marked ecabiotec’s ECALIT as more developed is the level of stability of the produced solution - such as shelf life of up to 2 years at that point, and the assurance of it being pH neutral and noncorrosive. This is not the case for the majority of electrolyzed water disinfectants today that are still being manufactured using older technology and methods, besides one other company in the current market that is more focused on healthcare but whose products are not as competitively priced as ecabiotec’s locally manufactured line.
ecabiotec’s ECALIT manufacturing method is now IMEALIT, a further developed manufacturing process standing for 'Interactive Membrane Electrochemical Activated Low Ion Transfer.' This manufacturing process shift now claims the same highly effective disinfection and deodorization solutions at a 3-year shelf life, and even higher strength.
“We’re constantly developing with R&D as our priority always; what’s most exciting about IMEALIT is that even as a categorically non-shield product line; we are still getting incredible results post-treatment. A test on a corridor in a busy government building showed an impressive level of results due to the high biofilm decomposition weeks after the first treatment on the surface - in a pandemic nevertheless. It has been the same with public transport results, and we’re excited to have these case studies to prove the efficacy of opting for products that are healthier and safer for the public and the environment - without promoting resistance in germs either, which is a huge accumulative side effect unfortunately with conventionally used hygiene solutions.”
THE FUTURE: IMPACT-DRIVEN GLOBAL BUSINESS
When asked about the future of ecabiotec ME, Bin Harib states it’s easy to simply say more markets and wider applications, but she goes on to say, “…we’re very proud of our upcoming direction to not only excel in the hygiene space - in which we’re confident to claim that we are primary experts, but to go beyond to impact-driven projects globally that take us back to our roots in water treatment with a worldwide vision for clean water access and hygiene solutions for stricken regions.”
Bin Harib reveals that ecabiotec ME is consolidating with other key ecabiotec offices under Blue Planet Investments AG, a firm under CEO Alexander Lattmann. Lattmann is described in a Top 10 Fintech & Insurtech Innovators list in Germany as ‘a future-oriented company builder and an active investor in sustainable, environmental future technologies and solutions.’ Which verily sums up what Blue Planet Investments AG is about, with a focus on investing in WASH (Water, Sanitization & Hygiene) with ecabiotec.
Lamis Bin Harib, Co-Founding Partner and CEO, ecabiotec Middle East Manufacturing LLC., in conversation with Clean Middle East…
How do you define natural when it comes to your stated ‘natural disinfection’?
‘Natural’ is definitely an open term; even toxic products can be described as ‘natural, based on the premise that the chemicals are indeed derived from natural sources.
Our version of natural disinfection is that our products are non-toxic at any dosage within their application spectrum, safe, biodegradable and non-corrosive. Our products, in fact, are considered bio identical as all ingredients and trace byproducts are available in similar percentages in the human body, making the potable water market one of ecabiotec’s first big markets in Europe.
Besides our biodegradable degreaser, all our disinfectants are composed of 99% water and less than 1% salt, electrochemically activated in a patented process to hold a stable charge that ruptures the inner and outer cell walls of all unicellular germs instantly. This produced solution is also pH neutral, and has many benefits such as effective and fast disinfection results without leaving behind disinfection byproducts that would require any special precautions.
How has the pandemic impacted ecabiotec’s markets and focus?
Our products are proven in outbreaks and epidemics across many markets already; the only difference with a pandemic is that it’s not as contained, and the market is far more open, and wider applications are needed. In that aspect the business side for all disinfectant companies experienced growth in demand with a subsequent increase in disinfectant brands popping up. Our focus, however, unlike many ‘pandemic trend hopping’ new companies has not changed.
We continue to offer full biosecurity solutions in air, surfaces (including hand sanitization) and water. Moreover, although we are primarily a B2B company, some of our line is B2C flexible and available for home and personal use; hence, our consumer reach and educational angle has naturally increased as hygiene and safety awareness is already high in the post-COVID-19 consumer. These consumers are more likely to be looking at companies such as ours as a source of information and hygiene practice safety if they’re purchasing our products.
Where do your solutions fit into the pandemic’s WHO recommendations, as an alcoholfree product?
In a pandemic involving a global health and safety crisis, the WHO’s role is to provide the most accessible effective product as a standard recommendation, which, in this case was personal hand hygiene safety of 70% alcohol sanitizers among other recommendations as an overall hygiene strategy.
This guidance is often misinterpreted. The WHO statement does not limit COVID-19 safety to just alcohol-based products. Moreover, it has highlighted the important role of health authorities to further develop local guidelines. In the UAE, we are extremely lucky to have the Ministry of Health and Dubai Health Authority as well as others who understand that the literature and studies support our efficacy not only against COVID-19, but the coronaviridae family in general through our testing and prior success in coronavirus outbreaks in humans and animals - which are still common in the region, especially with camels and felines in the GCC.
Additionally, with the increase in disinfecting and sanitizing, people are experiencing negative effects from allergies, skin dryness and other effects of alcohol disinfectants and sanitizers; so having an inclusive approach to other effective solutions such as ours allows the public to avoid these negative effects and continue to practice COVID-19 safety without the side effects.
What is your stance on disinfectants vs protective films and shielding products?
The rise of anti-bacterial and antivirus films and shield products right now is a reaction to the market wanting to find an easy route to hygiene and safety. Even though our product’s biofilm decomposition does offer a longer term protection again germ accumulation, we still refuse to market our products as shields and recommend our applicators only use shield products with prior targeted disinfection using our disinfectant line.
We have a great relationship with a few notable brands as many of our applicators use both our products and shield products after, but films and shields alone should not be relied on solely let alone in a pandemic, as they can be compromised through exposure to corrosive factors such as cleaning chemicals. They also do not cover air disinfection, which has been recognized as critical through research during this pandemic, from many sources that state that fogging is one of the most effective forms of public safety in buildings and public transport.