A new term has emerged in water conservation circles as advocates and business people work to protect the vital resource — “aquapreneur.” What’s an “aquapreneur?” Essentially, it’s a business leader who invests heavily in developing water-based technologies for purification or more socially-conscious issues like water insecurity.
There are plenty of water-related startups innovating bespoke technology to make water treatments and expand access to it. Recently, these aquapreneurs have been tapped to solve some of the most challenging water-related issues.
Water Treatment Work
Multiple companies have established themselves as future leaders in water treatment. ZwitterCo, a Boston-based water tech firm, is one. The company completed a $33 million Series A funding round last September. The money is going toward developing superfiltration membranes to treat industrial wastewater.
While many biofermentation and food processing companies pay to have wastewater hauled away, ZwitterCo offers a different solution. According to the firm, companies can pay a fee to use the superfiltration technology to reuse water, saving thousands of gallons.
Photo Courtesy ZwitterCo
“There is a fear and now a rapidly growing reality that getting water to a facility is a challenge,” Alex Rappaport, ZwitterCo’s CEO and co-founder, told GreenBiz.
This sentiment further emphasizes the need for new technologies to conserve current water systems. To do that, these startups need funding. Luckily, Burnt Island Ventures is here to lend a hand. Burnt Island specializes in “aquapreneurial” investing, especially those that mitigate the effects of climate change on water. ZwitterCo was one company they invested in, and others are on the rise.
Let’s talk about a few other water-tech firms making a significant impact on water conservation. SHARC International Systems, in Vancouver, British Columbia, created an all-electric hot water system. This machine pulls thermal energy from wastewater, which is used for reheating water in residential buildings.
Waterplan, a water risk assessment firm, offers insights about watersheds to companies. Its data analysis is incredibly important for food and beverage groups, showing how much water they consume and the risks climate change pose. In May, the firm announced raising $11 Million in a Series A funding round.
Photo Courtesy SHARC Energy
A firm backing Waterplan is Liquid 2 Ventures. Headed by former NFL quarterback Joe Montana and former Google executive Michael Ma, they are a leading watertech venture capital firm.
“We really need actionable intelligence,” Ma said to GreenBiz. “Water is one of those things that changes on a month-by-month, if not a week-by-week, basis.”
Liquid 2 realizes now is the time to invest in companies that understand the major ecological and industrial threats looming over freshwater bodies.
According to Morningstar, the stark reality is water demand is expected to exceed supply by 56% in 2030. For those living through water scarcity or insecurity, this is a serious problem. Businesses rely on water, yet there is so much less discourse about water scarcity affecting their income and the economy compared to carbon emissions.
Change may be on the horizon with more companies disclosing data on their water usage. Morningstar reported that Sustainalytics, an eco-data analysis firm, said as of the 2020–2021 fiscal year, 16.6% of the companies they cover disclosed their water withdrawal numbers. That’s a jump from 7% from the previous year; however, more work is needed to tackle the issues.
Photo Courtesy kazuend
The World Economic Forum and its partners like HCL Group believe aquapreneurs are essential to solving the biggest water problems with technological advancements. To double down on the effort, HCL — which, in May 2022, committed $15 million over the next five years “to support water-focused entrepreneurs” — partnered with the organization’s open innovation platform UpLink on the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative.
“At HCL, we want to make every effort to help resolve this global crisis,” Roshni Nadar Malhotra, CEO of HCL Group and chairperson of HCL Technologies, said in a statement. “Our partnership with World Economic Forum’s UpLink platform is a step in this direction, and our ecosystem approach can be truly transformative.”
The first of five Global Freshwater Challenges was held between September and November 2022 “to find innovative solutions that conserve and restore freshwater ecosystems.”
The project received 121 submissions, and 10 winners were announced in January.
Watertech leaders are playing a significant role in finding creative, data-driven approaches to keep watersheds plentiful and clean.
“Taking action on water risks is essential for climate action, and it makes business sense,” Jose Ignacio Galindo, Waterplan CEO and co-founder, said in a press release. With inspiration and innovation powering the way, aquapreneurs are establishing a loosely united network of environmentally-conscious companies tackling some of climate change’s biggest challenges.