[Korean Startup Interview] CAST: Pioneering Eco-Friendly Sterilization with Microplasma Technology for Global ImpactReading Time: 5 minutes
Founded in 2019, the startup CAST has secured microplasma technology utilizing oxygen and developed eco-friendly sterilizers to address environmental, carbon neutrality, and sanitation issues. Plasma, known as the fourth state of matter beyond solid, liquid, and gas, is used in various fields including semiconductors for computers and cars, solar cell component manufacturing processes, smart agriculture, space industries, energy sectors, and hydrogen production through plasma gas reforming. While it is widely used in industrial sectors, CAST has applied this technology in the field of sterilization using oxygen. They have commercialized sterilization solutions that do not use chemical agents, particularly in water treatment and sterilization, storage, and washing of agricultural products, based on low-temperature microplasma technology.
Traditional UV sterilizers or chemical sterilizers only sterilize where UV wavelengths or chemicals reach, but CAST’s plasma sterilization technology utilizes ozone generated from oxygen, sterilizing any area the gas reaches. It’s eco-friendly as it doesn’t use chemical components, and it can even replace chlorine disinfection in swimming pools, making it more hygienic.
Selected for the ‘Global Venture Development Program’ by Daegu Creative Economy Innovation Center and Plug and Play Korea to support promising venture startups’ global market entry, CAST is planning to embark on substantial global market expansion through this program. Utilizing microplasma technology for air reforming to produce hydrogen, CAST conducted a sterilization/storage project in Cambodia in 2021. They are currently running a sterilization distribution/logistics business in Tanzania and preparing for business expansion through collaborations with international organizations like the Global Climate Fund and WFP.
Min-Hwan Kim, CEO of CAST, stated, “We aim to be a carbon-neutral solution company, ensuring the safety of food and water both domestically and internationally, and achieving sterilization without chemical agents.” He added, “We plan to generate sustainable revenue structures through stable income in B2B and B2G, and ultimately, entering the B2C business via a sterilization distribution platform.”
What problem is our team trying to solve?
CAST provides sterilization solutions using oxygen for food, water, and space based on Low-Temperature Micro Plasma technology. Especially, we are actively participating in solving social issues presented by the UN’s SDGs, such as Zero Hunger and Clean Water and Sanitation, aiming to be a solution company for carbon neutrality by ensuring the safety of food and water in Korea and abroad and achieving sterilization without chemical agents.
How do we solve this problem?
Plasma is applied in various fields. Although it is widely used in industries such as energy and hydrogen production through plasma gas reforming, we are applying technology in the field of sterilization using oxygen. We have secured and applied to the market a sterilization solution that does not use chemical agents, especially in water treatment, and the sterilization, storage, and washing of agricultural products based on low-temperature microplasma technology.
What is CAST’s technical competitiveness?
Microplasma is one of the sophisticated plasma technologies. It is a source technology that maximizes plasma efficiency and reduces electricity use by increasing electron density through micro-discharging of plasma. Also, with product development in modular types, it shows clear differentiation from existing plasma devices in use and maintenance. Currently, including various applied technologies, a total of 16 domestic and international patents have been filed and registered, and the products have received KC and CE certification.
What products does CAST offer?
Currently, based on these technologies, we are developing, manufacturing, and selling key components and equipment applied in various eco-friendly sterilization processes, including agricultural product washing and sterilization solutions, as well as livestock and aquaculture products. We also hold core technology in Advanced Oxidation Processes, selling and distributing products and solutions that can be applied in the field of professional water treatment. Additionally, we possess environmental indicator sensing systems for temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, etc., applying them for precise environmental data construction and advanced control technology. We are growing in various fields through collaboration with enterprises in agriculture, livestock, water treatment, and odor removal.
What are CAST’s target markets and customers?
For food, the non-thermal sterilization market is estimated to be around 300 billion KRW domestically and a market size of approximately 820 million dollars abroad. The annual growth rate is estimated at 8.4% based on the year 2022. For water treatment, the market for advanced oxidation sterilization equipment and various other water treatment equipment is around 600 billion KRW, with an estimated annual growth rate of 9.0% until 2025. We primarily engage in B2B and B2G businesses.
What is CAST’s business model?
CAST is currently targeting the B2B and B2G markets, supplying devices to the sterilization market for eco-friendly agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, and also distributing solutions. Besides, we apply chemical-free sterilization in the field of professional water treatment, especially for small-scale water treatment facilities like swimming pools, and provide products and solutions for special wastewater and water reuse. We are also conducting overseas ODA projects in countries like Cambodia, Tanzania, and distributing technology and solutions in the distribution/logistics sector.
What are our team’s achievements?
In the third year of establishment, as a startup, we were recognized for our technological competence and selected for international development and environmental projects by startup support institutions. Particularly domestically, with the help of startup incubators like Daegu Startup Innovation Center, support from water-related organizations such as the Water Resources Corporation, Water Industry Cluster, and selection for development projects in developing countries by organizations like KOICA, we are leading in expanding business and spreading technology in various countries, including Cambodia, Tanzania.
What is CAST’s competitiveness?
Representative Kim Min-hwan developed original technology in the US for 14 years and established CAST after returning to Korea. Currently, with more than 16 patent applications and registrations, we have secured micro plasma technology and expertise, growing the company with operational, manufacturing, and marketing professionals. Particularly, we believe CAST’s competitive edge is securing and conducting business with domestic and international business networks.
Why should CAST receive investment?
First, we have secured micro plasma original technology and various applied technologies, meaning we possess unparalleled technical strength.
Second, it can be applied in essential areas such as sterilization and professional water treatment. Regardless of the field, its applicability ensures high growth potential.
Third, with B2B and B2G, stable revenue generation is possible, and we plan to create a sustainable revenue structure by targeting B2C business through a sterilization distribution platform in the future.
What efforts and achievements have been made for overseas expansion?
In 2021, we conducted a sterilization/storage business in Cambodia through the KOICA CTS Seed 1 project, and currently, with a total of 500 million funds, we are conducting a sterilization distribution/logistics business in Tanzania through the CTS Seed 2 project. We are preparing for business expansion through collaboration with international organizations such as the Global Climate Fund and WFP.
What help is the ‘Global Venture Development Program’ providing?
This program serves as a stepping stone for our ongoing international development ODA projects. We are preparing for overseas expansion, including Saudi Green initiatives and participation in the U.S. WEFTEC exhibition, with significant assistance, particularly for entry into the U.S. market.
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