The technology behind our safe drinking water
As I sat down to write this blog post, news about Montreal’s boil-water advisory lit up my Twitter account after a failed test at a municipal filtration plant. A significant portion of Montreal’s metropolitan area and over 750,000 residents were affected by the advisory, which emphasized just how much we depend on our water maintenance systems, both to treat wastewater and to provide safe, clean drinking water.
MaRS is in the great position of working with many phenomenal water technology companies that are leading the way toward improving our water systems and ensuring that we have safe, clean water. One of the companies we work with, Real Tech Inc., has developed real-time quality analysis technologies that are improving water quality.
About the technology
Real Tech provides high-quality UV photometric and spectroscopic analytical instrumentation for the water and wastewater industries. The company has gained significant international traction, with thousands of customers in nearly 40 countries around the world, and continues to expand.
Real Tech has a variety of solutions that are able to detect various contaminants in our water so that we can better treat and manage this valuable resource. The company’s system allows extremely small concentrations of contaminants to be detected, which is essential for detecting many problematic contaminants. With their system, detection can take place in 10 to 15 seconds — significantly faster than other systems.
Nitrates found in wastewater—which make their way into our lakes, rivers and streams—can wreak havoc on our aquatic ecosystems. Plus, consuming a high concentration of nitrates through drinking water has links to health concerns, especially for babies.
Nitrate is a colourless, odourless and tasteless molecule and is therefore difficult to monitor. Real Tech’s technology provides an enhanced ability to detect nitrate and presents more accurate measurements than its competitors.
Real Tech has also developed innovative technologies for detecting organic materials in water, which are known to cause a variety of challenges, from feeding micro-organisms to complicating the chemical reactions used in water treatment processes. The company has also developed a security system for monitoring water distribution for accidental or intentional contamination.
In acknowledgement of the strength of their technology—as well as their focus on developing products that use and re-use resources in a sustainable fashion, thereby reducing environmental impacts—Real Tech was awarded a 2012 Deloitte Technology Green 15 award for the fourth year in a row. Real Tech’s CEO and co-founder, Jodi Glover, also won an RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in 2012.
I recently sat down with Jodi to talk about the company’s successes.
What inspired you to enter the water and wastewater industry?
I always had a passion for the environment and the water industry, having grown up with a father who is an engineer in the field. I also learned about the ecosystems and the importance of water to all life from a young age. It’s hard not to be inspired by our world’s most precious resource!
What are the biggest challenges facing companies in the water and wastewater sector?
Solving any of the many problems! Water is actually very complex and it presents numerous challenges that still need to be overcome.
Companies in this sector need to keep being innovative and to apply advancements in technologies to help improve efficiencies and effectiveness with treatment processes and to ensure much better water-quality goals. We have come a long way in minimizing acute health effects from drinking water, but we are still working on decreasing other toxic contaminants that cause longer term health issues, such as disinfection by-products. This is one area where Real Tech’s technologies are offering assistance.
In addition to winning the award from RBC you were recently showcased in The Next Women magazine. What have these successes meant to the company and yourself?
I am very thankful for receiving the 2012 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur TPH Sustainability Award, as the recognition has helped to create more opportunities and further strengthen our relationships with our partners.
Personally, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to inspire others by sharing my journey as a woman entrepreneur, especially in cleantech, and I was recently invited to be the keynote speaker for International Women’s Day in Halifax with RBC and the Centre for Women in Business. I hope I can be a positive influence to other young women, but also to other leaders and businesses. I hope to set an example that cleantech can be profitable, and that it is possible to save the world, care about people, be socially responsible and have a healthy business all at the same time.
Water and cleantech in general are very male-dominated industries. Have you found it challenging to break down barriers as a woman?
Growing Real Tech over the last nine years I’ve encountered very few women—and even fewer who are in positions of influence. However, there are some out there, and it’s growing, like all areas of business and technology, which is great to see. There are definitely challenges. I have found that persistence and demonstrating your knowledge and understanding help to break down the barriers and keep things focused on the value our solutions can provide.
What advice do you have for young women or men who are thinking about entrepreneurship as a career path?
I actively encourage others to explore entrepreneurship all the time. Nothing compares to taking on the challenge to build your vision into a reality. There are no limits or glass ceilings to your success with entrepreneurship. However, I would say that you have to love it. Don’t start a business that you aren’t passionate about. Growing a company is a roller-coaster ride and it takes an incredible amount of dedication in the face of adversity to succeed. You have to truly enjoy what it is that you are working so hard to build.
If you do have the drive to embark on your own venture, ensure that you have a solid vision and a plan for how you’re going to get there. Think strategically, know what your competitive advantage is and be adaptable to keep innovative. Although it takes hard work, entrepreneurship comes with incredible flexibility that allows you the freedom to balance all your life priorities, which is something I truly value as I’m also a mother of two young boys.
Jennifer MinelliJennifer manages the accelerating ventures program at MaRS, supporting high-growth ventures in the cleantech, health and information & communications technology (ICT) sectors.See more…