Sean Weaver’s Ground-Breaking TechniSoil
05/25/2016 04:56PM ● Published by Jordan Venema
All Roads Lead Home
By Jordan Venema
Photo courtesy of TechniSoil
It’s a long road that brought Redding native Sean Weaver back home. “I grew up in Redding, went to Shasta High School, then moved away for about 20 years,” he says. By his late teens, Weaver moved to Europe before relocating to cities like New York and San Francisco. Then about 10 years ago, Weaver returned to Redding, where he started TechniSoil, a relatively small company that in a few short years has covered a lot of ground. Literally.
If you enjoy golf or like to hike, there’s more than a slim chance you’ve already seen TechniSoil products, though you’d never know it. “We develop, manufacture and package about 20 landscape-related products, applications like sealers and stabilizers, that are sold to retailers across North America,” explains Weaver.
Weaver developed a polymer, essentially a liquid plastic, that can be mixed with natural aggregates like sand, soil and granite to create longer-lasting, natural-looking roads and paths. His products are being mixed with everything from paths at Sacramento’s Sutter’s Fort to federal roads in Russia.
When we think of inventions that we take for granted, roads are probably pretty high on the list. We not only use them every day, for almost every bit of distance we travel, but they allow us to get from point A to point B quickly and efficiently. It’s such a simple thing, but try and imagine a world without roads.
“A road has the highest impact in a nation’s gross domestic product,” Weaver posits, “and a tremendous economic and social impact.” As a network, roads connect people to each other and services, like health and education. In a sense, Weaver says with a chuckle, “we’re doing something bigger than Elon Musk, for such a little company in Redding.”
Not that Weaver was thinking about any of this when he first developed the liquid plastic. He had only accepted a friendly challenge “to design a polymer that could be used with decomposed granite that could hold up under a golf cart.”
Which would require a background in science, right? “No, I was a clothing designer,” Weaver says. “I used to work for Titleist Golf… I taught myself chemistry.”
No stranger to accepting entrepreneurial challenges, Weaver has always enjoyed the creativity behind business. “Before TechniSoil, I’ve developed products and filed patents. When I was young I wanted to be an inventor, and it kind of just happened.” At 16, perhaps capitalizing on the need for cool in a Redding summer, Weaver started a snow cone company that he later sold, using the profits to move to Europe.
Ask Weaver about all those entrepreneurial endeavors and he’ll say he’s learned from them – even the snow cones – how to create an even better business.
TechniSoil is actually two businesses: TechniSoil Global, which creates the 20-something products sold through retailers, and TechniSoil Industrial, which adapts those polymers to building and recycling roads and paths.
Using his polymer and mixing it with aggregates, TechniSoil has paved roads in countries like Russia, the Philippines and Qatar, as well as paving pathways across federal and state parks in the United States.
“Many of the parks have to rebuild their trail systems to be ADA compliant,” explains Weaver. “However, they want them to look natural. So if they can use their native aggregate, and mix it with my material, it creates a natural-looking surface that is as hard as concrete when it’s wet. So it’s ADA compliant and it has the aesthetic.”
TechniSoil is also paving most major campuses in Silicon Valley, including the Facebook campus. His company has also paved golf courses throughout the world, as well as the California Golf Club in San Francisco, and pathways at the Smithsonian.
For as many miles (or kilometers) as TechniSoil has paved, its greatest significance may not be the ground it is covering, but the technology that is helping cut emissions and preserve resources.
“There’s 20 million kilometers of paved roads today, and in the next 20 years they’re going to build another 20 million more kilometers, and that’s not going to get done with transformative technology,” says Weaver.
By recycling roads instead of rebuilding them, TechniSoil is cutting carbon emissions by 85 percent at a 30 percent reduction in cost. Roads in Russia usually last about two years before they need to be rebuilt, Weaver explains. “Typically they would grind that road up and then haul away the asphalt.”
Instead, Weaver’s company has adapted heavy machinery to grind roads, then mix the aggregate with TechniSoil’s polymer, finally re-laying the asphalt into a recycled road that will last up to 30 years. That’s cutting out the need for more aggregate to be quarried, as well as the industrial vehicles that would have to deliver it.
Weaver has come a long way from selling snow cones in Redding, having traveled and laid many roads since. But through national parks or over federal highways in Russia, for Weaver anyway, all roads lead to home.