From The Editor | August 3, 2016

Six Water Startups Look To Transform The Industry

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

Six Water Startups Look To Transform The Industry

Milwaukee-based, non-profit entrepreneurial and technology center The Water Council has announced the latest batch of startup companies selected for its BREW Accelerator program. The program (the acronym representing Business Research Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin) has provided 20 fledgling water tech innovators with funding and mentorship since 2013 with the goal of commercializing their products.

Six winners have been selected after a rigorous application and judging process. The applicant pool was judged on how innovative and advanced their technologies are, how lucrative and useful their final products could be, and who the startups had existing partnerships with. Each winner will receive up to $50,000 in investment, space in Milwaukee’s Global Water Center, business training, and guidance from industry experts.

CORNCOB, Inc.

Wisconsin-based CORNCOB saw a problem with tubular membranes that encounter high flow. Too much pumping energy is required to achieve high cross-flow velocities past the membrane surface in these cases, they thought. So they designed a membrane filtration system made up of a series of circular discs, each one with membrane filtration and permeate transport material on the surface, mounted on a rotating shaft. When two or more discs are operated in parallel, high cross-flow can be achieved while reducing energy by at least 50 percent.

“Because of the unusually wide operating space between membrane surfaces, the CORNCOB process can handle and concentrate solids to very high levels without plugging,” said Dick Davie, CORNCOB’s chief technology officer.

Davie said that his company will use its BREW acceleration to continue product development and focus on marketing training and networking.

“The most important outcome of the BREW award is the expression of confidence that The Water Council has in our new product prospects and the additional credibility that lends to our marketing message,” he said.

DMR International (DMRI)

DMRI, from Illinois, has developed a filter that kills common bacteria, chiefly iron bacteria, found in wells without use of chemicals.

“Well water containing iron bacteria can have an unappealing yellow/brown color, an odor similar to rotten eggs, and can leave stains on plumbing fixtures,” said Rick Latella, DMRI’s president. “THE DMRI medium system is low-cost and can easily be added to standard water filtration systems.”

With its BREW winnings, DMRI hopes to further refine its purification technology and to network with business leaders to grow its brand, said Latella.

WISRAN

Facing the ever-frustrating issue of non-revenue water, California-based WISRAN provides “prescriptive insights” from disparate sets of data to help combat it. Nearly all utilities utilize disconnected systems to collect data for metering, asset management, work management, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). With cloud-enabled machine learning, WISRAN can continuously monitor data from all of these sources and identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement.

“The water industry needs robust and comprehensive platforms that facilitate integrated operations and provide advanced prescriptive analytics to improve non-revenue water and other operational inefficiencies,” said Arsalan Lodhi, co-founder of WISRAN.

Using the BREW prize, WISRAN will look for more ways that its data analysis can be utilized to improve operations.

“In the next few months we want to work with customers, discovering their current pain-points, to solidify and quantify our value proposition for identifying real-time business and process intelligence,” Lodhi said.

Energy Tech Innovations, LLC (ETI)

ETI, also hailing from Wisconsin, is working on a lower-cost, water-based gas treatment method for converting biogas into “greenhouse gas neutral fuel,” a renewable, natural gas. The method produces a purified methane stream by removing carbon dioxide from biogas while also substantially reducing the hydrogen sulfide and siloxanes that damage electric generators and other equipment.

“ETI will leverage all of the benefits that are available from the BREW program as we continue to work on optimizing this new biogas upgrading system over the next several months with the intent to commercialize it as quickly as possible,” Bryan Johnson, the inventor behind the company, said.

MetaMateria Technologies

Ohio-based MetaMateria deals in nanomaterials to address nutrient and contaminant removal. Its products utilize porous ceramics to create a platform for bio-augmentation and nanotechnology that can be regenerated and facilitates the recovery of phosphorus and other compounds.

“MetaMateria’s products will enable new solution and application designs for emerging challenges of nutrient removal and recovery,” said Tim Marth, the company’s vice president. “These help others to better manage contaminants that degrade water quality.”

Marth said that his company plans to create strategic relationships with Water Council members to accelerate the commercialization of its products and hopes to executive three to six demonstration projects in two to three markets.

Smart Waters

North of the border in British Columbia, Smart Waters has developed a technology that helps cities harvest rainwater and hold it indefinitely while maintaining its quality with non-chemical, electronic-based treatment, so that it can strategically provide reserves.

“With the proceeds from its BREW win, the company intends to fine-tune and commercialize its water treatment and monitoring technology in order to mitigate the effects of drought conditions brought on by climate change,” Jamie Gordy, the founder and CEO, said.

Image credit: "Milwaukee" Jacob Rostermundt © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/