Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink. This line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, is becoming truer by the day. And it’s a crisis that many Indian technology ventures are today trying to provide solutions to – from using Python to help predict a drought, to using satellites to scout leakages in underground pipelines.
Anik Panja and JV Raghava Sharma’s Vizag-based Hydrograviticity is giving rain-water harvesting a whole different meaning. It has made filters, made of gravel and sand, that can be retrofitted to existing pipes to help reuse rain water which would have otherwise gone literally down the drain. The filters have remote sensors which tell users the contents of the water after purification. The sensor detects the pH value, the turbidity and the flow of the water during filtration. A dashboard is given to each gated community for users to view the data, while a master dashboard with the company helps interpret the data further, Panja says.
Riddhish Soni and Akash Solanki’s Aumsat has used rocket science to provide a non-invasive system to detect and predict leakages in underground pipelines by using a technology deployed in the Chandrayaan-I mission to detect water on the moon. This happened when Soni, a former employee of ISRO, as a part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, studied this technology and felt it could be put to use in society. He left his job at ISRO in 2019 to begin Aumsat.
Aumsat uses Python-based algorithms that run artificial intelligence to read and analyse images emerging from an Argentinian satellite. "This satellite goes around our country every 15 minutes. We connected it to Aumsat's system through an application programming interface (API) through which images are captured. These images are then interpreted and processed and given to clients, for them to decide the further course of action.
Bhavesh Narayani’s Solinas, incubated in IIT-Madras, uses robotics and an image processing algorithm to get images of blocks in sewage systems, and a cloud-based system to process the data collected. Narayani says a single type of robot cannot enter all kinds of sewage pipes, so they have made three versions for three different kinds of pipelines. The robot uses a pair of wheels to move through the pipe to detect blockages. While manual scavenging can take up to eight days to detect blockages, this robot can do it in a day, says Narayani.
Akanksha Agarwal’s Agromorph has developed a bioreactor that is powered by sunlight and in which algae is present, and when effluents are put into the bioreactor, the algae eat up the harmful elements. Akanksha says it’s a photosynthesis process that not just produces pure water, but also helps purify the air around.
Buyers & funding
Most of these ventures are getting good business from government agencies and NGOs. Aumsat has been working with the French and Singapore governments, and also now the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Ekatvam’s solution has been used in 50 villages with the help of NGOs, including the Coastal Salinity Prevention Cell (CSPC) in Gujarat.
Most of them are largely funded by corporates through CSR spends and government grants. Ekatvam got its seed funding from the government’s Startup India Seed Fund Scheme. Solinas got funds from PSUs like GAIL, IOCL and NTPC.
The five startups mentioned in this story were selected to take part in the Next Generation Water Action multi-hub challenge, run by the Technical University of Denmark, with the finals taking place during the International Water Association’s World Water Congress in Copenhagen this month. Eske Bo Rosenberg, Consul General of Denmark to India, and Head of Trade & Innovation, says the water innovation challenge in India was run in partnership with Atal Innovation Mission, Niti Aayog and the Danish government’s Innovation Centre in Bengaluru.
“Out of 900 applicants, these five stood out with their solutions offered to challenges set forward by Ramboll, Grundfos, Region Zealand, University of Ulsan, and Atal Innovation Mission,” he says, adding that the initiative is part of the unique bilateral Green Strategic Partnership between Denmark and India.