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Innovating with sensors at your fingertips for the cannabis industry

Three years ago, while Nic Boileau was conducting research on biosensors as a PhD candidate, he got the idea for Ekidna. He started the company with a team of professors and PhD researchers from the Faculty of Engineering and Science at uOttawa in 2019. After leading his company to success, Nic reflects on the resources that he leveraged to start Ekidna as a student.

His company, Ekidna, provides a lab-on-a-chip technology that measures levels of THC, THCa, CBD and CBDa in cannabis plants. This test can be done directly on site, with no lab tech needed. This technology helps licensed cannabis producers reduce operational costs, since they can now adjust their growing conditions for better results and consistency. It also helps them bring their production to the market faster.  

The Ekidna test tube contains a chip that uses the electronic sensor to measure THC and CBD levels. The tube is then inserted directly in the analyzer, which is connected to your computer and gives you the results. 

To design the patented product, Nic partnered with Benoit Lessard, professor and electronic sensor expert, Adam Shuhendler, chemical diagnostic expert, and Cory Harris, cannabis researcher. 

While he was a student, he participated in the Pitch competition and in the Simon Nehme Summer Entrepreneurship School at uOttawa. He then signed up for the MakerLaunch program with his idea, a 9-month accelerator program which provides engineering students and young alumni support to launch their companies and fast track the commercialization of their technologies.  

A year after completing the program, the company completed their first prototype and raised $900,000 in investment. They grew their team to 8 full-time employees and moved to a bigger lab located in the BioScience Hall on campus. In June 2022, they achieved a big milestone, selling their first products to Canopy Growth, the world leading cannabis company.  

“uOttawa is where Ekidna started. The programs there helped build the foundation for my entrepreneurial journey. Between the classes, pitch competitions, and MakerLaunch, I gained valuable knowledge, connections, and funds to pursue Ekidna. Without the funding from MakerLaunch, I’m not sure if Ekidna would be where it is today.” mentioned Nic Boileau. Thankful for the opportunity that uOttawa has given him, Nic signed the Founder’s Pledge, a nonbinding commitment to support the faculty and next generation of innovators, when the time is right.

With over $1.4 million in investment so far, the future looks promising for this young company as they continue to do research on other sensors, specially designed for the brewery industry, wine production and agriculture.

Author – FACULTY OF ENGINEERING, University of Ottawa