Not all heroes wear capes! In this month's member spotlight, we sit down with Camden Street member and the man behind the innovative water-purification startup, Econse - saving the world one purified water source at a time.
Project Spaces: Hey Derek, thanks for chatting with us! So, to begin, how did you find yourself starting Econse, and why?
Derek Davy: About five years ago, I had a realization about business and the role of cleantech, so I began the process of building what has now become Econse Water Purification Systems Inc.
At the time I was working in the textile industry as the North American sales executive for a large textile mill. Our product line was focused on fashion and denim, but also on innovative industrial fabrics including fire retardant fabric, soil release and other workwear products.
As the technology to produce fabrics became more complex, the need for wastewater treatment became more critical to prevent vicious chemicals from entering the environment.
Our company was very proactive, but many other companies were not. The size, cost and scale required to meet environmental regulations far exceeded what the majority of industrial companies could afford, and there really was no alternatives.
I was lucky enough to know two brilliant people whom I began quizzing on technical questions related to chemistry and water treatment, and soon enough I was intrigued by their ideas and vision of what was possible to purify and return water to its natural state in a small, compact, chemical free way.
PS: That’s amazing! So for our readers, could you explain what Econse does?
DD: Econse manufactures water & wastewater purification systems for small to mid sized industries and communities. Our compact, aboveground systems are helping clients across Canada with affordable, on-site chemical-free treatment. We work with food and beverage manufacturers, agricultural producers, green houses and drinking water for remote communities.
One of our early successes came when we began working with Mill Street Brewery to help them improve their wastewater. Craft beer is delicious, but it also creates a huge mess, taking some ten litres of water to make one litre of beer and the waste stream is full of grains, yeast, hops, and cleaning chemicals with very strong pH.
Steve Abrams, Cofounder at Mill Street, was kind enough to lend us some room in his parking lot to bring in our treatment trailer and experiment onsite for several months to really understand and fine-tune a solution.
What came out of that was our BrüClean System, which helps craft brewers treat and manage their water onsite at a price they can afford. Now we have systems across Canada helping brewers grow their business and reduce their impact. The latest versions of our systems are helping rural breweries and wine makers with zero discharge water reuse, while all waste products are collected and recycled to agriculture or converted to clean energy in bio digesters, completing the circular economy.
PS: What fuels your passion for what you're working on?
DD: Water was one area that really resonated with me when I wanted to start a company, maybe because I grew up surrounded by lakes and nature, but it was also an area that I felt we could make a difference compared to other cleantech sectors such as energy or solar which are a bit saturated.
Seeing the impact before and after our treatment always blows me away. The water starts off horrible, dark, smelly and even dangerous and comes out clear and clean, it gives you hope that in the future we can strike a balance between our needs as a society and the impact we have on nature.
PS: Well Derek, we love having you as a member of our community! How did you find us?
DD: I live in the area and visited several shared office spaces, but I was really impressed by the community and vibe at Project Spaces.
I wanted to have a sales office that I could walk to, and an environment that was inspiring. Having your own business is sometimes challenging… ok, it's always challenging. And the positive energy at Project Spaces is very inspiring. It gives you a chance to both focus and network and I’m always impressed with the abundant creativity of its diverse community. It’s a unique space in a unique city and really much more than just an office!
PS: That really is our favourite thing to hear! So what can we expect from Econse in the future?
DD: Well, we recently expanded into helping the fight against algae in lakes and rivers as part of the International Joint Phosphorus Alliance and the George Barley Water Prize to find a solution to this complex problem.
This is bigger than anything we have done before so I’m very excited about the impact potential to remove and recover phosphorus, a.k.a fertilizer, from water. This is a huge issue facing Lake Erie, the Great Lakes and around the world. More to come!
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