Waste water treatment and reuse is a driving principle behind water conservation business idea challenges new innovators are grappling with today. (Contributed)

Kelowna presence among AquaHacking Challenge finalists

Four teams vieing for $50,000 seed money prize

There is a Kelowna influence among the four finalists seeking to win $50,000 seed money for their water conservation business proposals.

The finalists were chosen from what began with 21 teams involving 137 participants in the 2021 Western Canada AquaHacking Challenge, which last week was reduced to 10 teams making their business pitch in the live-streaming semi-finals.

The AquaHacking final four are:

• SIP (UBC Okanagan) – Issues: optimization of drinking water and innovative social technologies. Solution: A mobile filtration station in the form of a gravity filter backpack. Team members Elana Wood, Yosamin Esanullah, Fikunayomi Adelaja and Mana Tokuni in Kelowna, and Yamen Shehab in Doha, Qatar.

• Algaegator (UBC Okanagan) – Issues: nutrient capture and toxic algal blooms. Solution: A solar-powered filtration system that uses a submerged pump to move polluted water into a tank for electrocoagulation to remove toxic chemicals. Team members Erik Hohl, Dolphin Chan and Sam Kinakin of Kelowna, Tanner Cheyne from Calgary, Vancouver’s Matthew Hinchliff and Omar Noury of Winnipeg.

• Eco-Friendly Wastewater Treatment (University of Saskatchewan) – Issue: optimization of wastewater treatment plants. Solution: Use Fate Models to improve wastewater treatment plant efforts to remove pollutants, including pharmaceuticals, Endocrine Disruptor Compounds, and pesticides, before releasing water back into the environment. Fate models estimate contaminant concentrations over time. In addition, maximize pollutant removal using agricultural biomass residues (e.g. straw) as adsorption for final filtration. Team members: Khaled Zoroufchi Benis, Shahab Minaei and Mohsen Asadi, all of Saskatoon.

• Triple C (UBC Okanagan) – Issue: optimization of drinking water. Solution: Focusing on improving water quality in Indigenous communities, the team developed a device to help prevent water contamination in water cisterns using a hydraulic coupling on the water delivery hose and the cistern lid. Team members: Mikhail Ignatyev and Emilia Dyck, both from Kelowna, Sydney Strocen of Winnipeg, and Sam Keeble from Vancouver.

These teams will now compete for $50,000 in seed funding and placement in a start-up incubator to further refine their solution and bring it to market, with the finals being held in September.

“It’s exciting to be around young people approaching the future with such innovation, hope and hard work,” said Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water, a supporter of the AquaHacking Challenge.

“These teams took a very pragmatic approach with straightforward solutions to big problems.”

“We are also very impressed with the solutions presented by the four finalist teams,” added Kariann Aarup, AquaHacking director.

“These young innovators have reached a key milestone on their AquaHacking journey and we look forward to supporting them through the next phase of the challenge as they continue to refine their solutions and develop their business plans.

“Their out-of-the-box thinking gives us all great hope for the future of fresh water in Canada.”

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