More than 270,000 Canadians do not have access to a clean drinking water source, with access being more deficient in remote and Indigenous communities across the country.
Vancouver-based Aqua Intelligent Technologyis tackling this challenge through its unique, sustainable, and affordable approach to analyzing water data. The aquatech startup uses sensor data to analyze drinking water systems and identify issues within the water treatment process. Aqua Intelligent can help communities easily monitor their water systems in real-time, address critical issues earlier, and reduce maintenance costs -- all while increasing access to cleaner drinking water.
Aqua Intelligent has been on the local tech map since its launch in 2018. They’ve worked with accelerators Foresight Canada and entrepreneurship@UBC, participated in the 2019 New Ventures BC Competition, and secured funding through our BC Fast Pilot Program in 2020. Last year, they were recognized as one of the top environmental companies in Vancouver.
We sat down with Aqua Intelligent’s CEO, Reza Rezaei, to discuss how his company is working with Indigenous communities to optimize their water systems and increase access to clean drinking water.
Tell us about Aqua Intelligent. What do you do and why did you start the company?
Reza: Clean drinking water access in North America is an ongoing issue that has left over 270,000 Canadians in various communities without a source of clean water. Aqua Intelligent focuses on improving drinking water quality in small cities, rural communities and First Nations via a mobile application.
First, we analyze sensor data installed in a drinking water system to understand the status and issues with the water treatment process. Then, we model all steps of the treatment process and optimize it to improve water quality. In the last step, we assist and instruct operational staff to maintain and operate the process properly via the AQUA application, which runs on cell phones and computers.
The solution improves water quality, reduces operation and maintenance costs, and organizes operation jobs.
Aqua Intelligent received a grant through Innovate BC and NRC-IRAPs BC Fast Pilot program. Can you tell us how the funding helped your company?
Reza: The funding helped Aqua Intelligent technology prove our technology concept and catalyze our business growth. As a result of the funding, we were able to secure new customers.
Tell us more about the pilot demonstration you operated with Lytton First Nation.
Reza: Aqua's remote monitoring app supplied operators with 24/7 access to water facilities. In addition, the app notified the operator about problems within the system and provided an alert upon detection. As a result, all issues were fixed at early stages, causing a reduction in maintenance costs and downtime.
Aqua's solution changed the chlorine management system from manual adjustment to automatic injection. As a result, it improved water quality and reduced the chlorine smell resulting from high chlorine residuals on taps.
What are some of the challenges you faced while commercializing your technology and how did you overcome them?
Reza: The main challenge was the long sales cycle. We solved this issue by collaborating with New Nations Development (NND) in Saskatchewan as a sales channel. NND is a First Nation firm introducing Aqua Intelligent Technology to First Nation communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
What's next for Aqua Intelligent? Are there any updates on the horizon?
Reza: We recently signed a contract with Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN). TCN’s water treatment system isn’t functional and this project aims to optimize the water system for making drinkable water. The sales model is a $10K/year subscription with an upfront cost between $100K - $120K.
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