Critical Need for the Technology
Currently, most organic waste streams like food waste, human waste (i.e., wastewater sludge), and animal waste end up in landfills or lagoons, releasing significant greenhouse gas emissions (over 150 MMT CO2 eq/year in the U.S.). By talking to stakeholders in these fields, Aquora identified that waste separation to concentrate these streams is a key technological barrier that often becomes cost prohibitive for developers and owners. As public and private sector incentives or mandates continue to drive waste processing for recovery of valuable resources like energy and fertilizer, efficient and scalable separation technologies will be critical to make projects financeable. Aquora’s focus is on filling this gap, with an initial technology application of cow manure, a waste stream that is particularly challenging to filter.
Supplemental Need for the Technology
Aquora’s technology is an enabler for increasing on-site production of renewable energy, bio-based fertilizer, and reusable water. Fossil fuel-derived energy and fertilizer use can thus be offset, and local water sources can be maintained at sustainable levels.
- Micro- and ultra-filtration membranes – These are not fit-for-purpose for processing most waste streams, which results in high OPEX and CAPEX due to severe fouling.
- Mechanical thickeners – Centrifuges, screw presses, filter presses, and rotary drum thickeners can separate solids from liquids at varying levels of efficacy but at high CAPEX and/or OPEX due to large footprints and high use of chemicals and energy.
Target waste/wastewater processing markets include:
- Animal Manure (Dairy Farms, Hog Farms, Poultry Farms)
- Industrial/Commercial Producers (Dairy, Beverage, Food, Pulp and Paper, Oil and Gas)
- Municipal (Wastewater, Sludge, Food Waste)
Non-waste processing markets include:
- Treatment of emerging contaminants
- Industrial Fermentation (biopharma, bioplastics, bioacids)
High-rate filtration and biological treatment is made possible via intentional management of filtering biofilms that are developed on Aquora-designed support structures.
R & D Status of Project
Current R&D Work:
- Characterizing fouling in diverse applications and operating scenarios
- Developing novel cleaning strategies for Aquora’s filtration approach
Previous R&D Highlights:
- Pilot-scale system commissioned late summer ‘23 for treatment of: Municipal wastewater
- Over one-year of lab-scale validation of low-pressure filtration of: Municipal wastewater
- Around two-years of lab-scale validation of treatment and filtration of: Cafeteria food waste
- Around one year of lab-scale validation of treatment and filtration of: Wastewater sludge and food waste (together) and hydrothermal liquefaction byproduct water
Aquora’s founding team brings the scientific, engineering design and deployment, and startup expertise that provide a strong foundation to transition a University-developed technology from the lab to a scalable commercial product deployed domestically and abroad.
Tim Fairley-Wax, Co-founder and CEO: Co-developer of Aquora’s patented technology at the University of Michigan and leader of commercialization efforts, leading Aquora to be one of six national finalists in the 2022 CleanTech open pitch competition. Conducted 150+ interviews to understand stakeholder needs and end user challenges across municipal, industrial, and agricultural applications.
Steve Skerlos, Ph.D., Co-founder and COO: Successful entrepreneur who has founded and scaled two previous startups from the University of Michigan, Accuri Cytometers (acquired for $200M+ in 2009) and Fusion Coolant Systems (installations across 20+ countries to date).
Lut Raskin, Ph.D., Co-founder and Scientific Advisor: U.S. National Academy of Engineering member and a pioneer in the field of engineering microbiomes with diverse expertise across resource recovery projects.
John Lee, P.E., Co-founder and Engineering Advisor: Professional engineer and world-renowned wastewater process engineer who has delivered multi-million dollar projects for a variety of multinational clients and prominent utilities in the U.S. and Australia.
Primary industry: Waste/Wastewater Processing
Category (i.e. tech keywords): Filtration, Biological Treatment, Renewable Natural Gas
Estimated annual revenue: N/A
Social challenge: Reducing greenhouse gas release from human and animal wastes; Protecting sensitive water bodies from untreated waste streams
R&D commercial collaborator: N/A