Nuuk, the cooler box poised to disrupt cold chain logistics

© Groenlandia

Barcelona-based startup Groenlandia Tech has developed a smart cooler box to track and monitor biological samples, providing an extra layer of security and control during transport

About 70% of diseases diagnosed are based on the analysis of biological samples that reach laboratories in degraded conditions, mainly due to the quality of storage and other inefficiencies during transportation. However, those samples are being analyzed anyway, according to Barcelona-based Groenlandia. 

The startup has spent the last two years building a cooler box and a SaaS platform to tackle cold chain issues in healthcare for biological samples like blood and the more recent demand for safe and reliable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

“So much money has poured into [medical] analysis, but nothing has been done to ensure proper transportation and cold chain,” CEO and co-founder Gabriel Bestard told CompassList at the sidelines of the recent 4YFN conference in Barcelona.

Groenlandia’s passive cooler unit, dubbed Nuuk, and SaaS platform provide an extra layer of security for healthcare institutions and companies looking to achieve operational efficiencies and strict control over the samples they transport. Palex Medical, a leading provider of advanced medical solutions for the health sector, is one of the official distributors of Groenlandia’s products in Spain. 

The startup was born out of a partnership between Mark Real, the president of the product design firm Minnim Design, and Mutter Ventures, the venture builder launched by the founders of ByHours, Christian Rodriguez and Guillermo Gaspart, along with the entrepreneurial experience of Bestard.

GPS and sensors

Made from expanded polypropylene, Nuuk, which weighs 2.9 kg when empty, can carry loads of up to 5 kg. The units are protected with electronic locks operated only with RFID cards, making each operator accountable for keeping the samples free of contamination.

Nuuk is also embedded with GPS to track route information and transportation time. It also has sensors to measure temperature changes, rough handling, and drops during transportation. Groenlandia’s cloud-based SaaS enables real-time tracking of these data and information on the type of biological content carried inside the cooler.

So much money has poured into [medical] analysis, but nothing has been done to ensure proper transportation

On the potential for blockchain integration into Groenlandia’s technology, Bestard believes “it has a strong proposition.” It hasn’t been implemented yet but is something the team is looking into.

“Developing hardware it's a long process,” Bestard said. “It's easy to go into the coolness of the technology and its improvements; the biggest struggle is to get the product out.” 

Besides a solid co-founding team and venture builder support, Groenlandia also accessed a network of industry experts and suppliers for product development. The startup collaborates with Kingspan, a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, for the manufacturing of its cooling units. Montronic, a local supplier of tool and process monitoring solutions, provides the electronics components. 

“We're lucky because, in Barcelona, there's a strong car manufacturing infrastructure which allows us to rely on top-of-the-line production processes both for the electronic and plastic components,” Bestard said. 

Aggressive growth targets

Although Groenlandia has not started commercialization yet, it is targeting revenues of €10m by 2022, mainly from the sales of the Nuuk units and SaaS monthly subscription fees. Bestard estimates that public hospitals require between 500 and 1,000 cooling units, whereas some private labs may need more than 10,000 units each. 

According to Bestard, the need for safe and reliable cold chain transportation of Covid-19 vaccines is a “big space to explore.” The company has started collaborating with health systems in Catalunya, Murcia, Extremadura and Asturias and is planning to appoint distributors for Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Three leading public healthcare institutions in Barcelona will pilot Groenlandia’s solution in September. The startup is also in the advanced stages of discussions to deploy Nuuk in some of the most prominent international labs operating at the national level in Spain. 

“We're looking to grow quite aggressively in two main areas: business and product development, to keep growing and improving our technology,” Bestard said. “Nuuk currently has a specific size, which limits our access to new markets.” 

Groenlandia’s primary focus will be to validate and establish the B2B model in the healthcare segment, but “other verticals, like food, are very promising too,” Bestard said. “There are many different things that Nuuk can potentially transport, going beyond biological markers, like organs and medicines, and now vaccines.”

Refocusing on cooler units

Going forward, Groenlandia is trying to change how cooler units are acquired in the public health system. According to Bestard, transportation coolers are typically bought in Europe through public biddings and treated as one of the items within the whole logistics bidding. 

“We are working with both public and private healthcare institutions across Spain to break out these contracts into a single bidding for the cooler unit itself,” Bestard said. On the question of funding, Bestard said Groenlandia had received capital from only one external investor. It also received an ENISA grant for the product development phase. 

“Overall we raised about €400,000. The business model of our venture builder [Mutter Ventures] is to take care of the fundraising at the head, breaking down the funds into its different ventures. In the next couple of months, Mutter Ventures will go through a new financing round,” Bestard said.

The startup is also planning to develop an active cooler unit. “Nuuk is a passive unit, which means that the cool needs to be generated, similar to adding ice into a cooling bag. Our next product will embed an engine that generates the cool by itself, like the refrigerator in our homes,” he added.

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Edited by Selva Kumar

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