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Kiwi startup cleans up industrial sludge

Mar 15, 2019

Envied around the world for its clean and green surroundings, New Zealand’s homegrown companies are exporting their knowledge and technology to solve pollution-related issues, and at the lead of this charge is Auckland-based start-up Aquafortus.

“More than 300 billion tons of wastewater are generated globally every year. This is equivalent to the size of North America's Lake Erie or 132 million Olympic swimming pools. Treating this wastewater typically costs US$20 to US$900 per ton, with the bulk of that in energy costs,” Aquafortus CEO Daryl Briggs said.

As regulators around the world gradually move toward zero liquid discharge (ZLD) systems, many industries, such as petrochemical, pharmaceutical, textiles and semiconductors, are gearing up for full compliance.

Aquafortus has patented ZLD technology that is able to take wastewater with high levels of salinity and separate the brine into dry mineral salt and clean water at an economically viable cost.

“We can extract all the water from wastewater for not much energy, compared to other technologies currently in the market. We can reduce operating expenses by up to 60%,” Briggs said.

Having already secured a US$40 million licensing agreement with a U.S. oil and gas company, the three-year-old start-up is shifting its focus on the Asia-Pacific region for its next licensee.

“Asia is the major growth engine of the global economy. It is critical that Aquafortus be a part of that engine. It is one of the markets with the greatest need for our technology,” Briggs said.

With expansion in mind, the start-up hopes to find strategic partners in the Asia-Pacific, particularly those with well-established distribution and logistics networks that can help build a global supply chain. At the same time, it wants to publicize its groundbreaking technology around the world.

“We are here. We can solve your problems, and it won’t be as costly as you think,” he said.

New Zealand 2019 was prepared for and originally printed in Forbes Asia magazine.

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