Articles & stories

An Innovative Approach to Waste 

Global concerns regarding water shortages and toxic drinking water have risen to critical levels in the last decade. With the aid of remarkable new technologies that treat wastewater, the fear of the world's most important resource rapidly diminishing can begin to subside. There are options. 

Following on from his tenure as Chief Executive of a successful, self-established software company, David Cam focused his attention on finding solutions to current and future wastewater and environmental challenges. "In 2006 I decided that the major global issue that would occupy my mind for the rest of my working career was going to be water. I understand the importance of water and just intuitively felt that there was an opportunity with water that hadn't been done before," he states.

Embarking on a New Enterprise

As a native Australian, Cam's interest in the water crisis stemmed from the drought that rocked Australia in 2006. Already the driest continent, that year Australia's recorded rainfall was between 40-60 percent, which resulted in an already weak agricultural market slipping in revenues by 23 percent. His direction was towards a company that would develop technology to treat wastewater, not in itself become a water treatment company, as he notes he did not want "to be consumed with being an on-ground field services company."

Cam noted, the current global wastewater treatment market is dominated by the use of chemicals and membrane technology to treat almost every type of wastewater. There have been no significant advancements in wastewater treatment technology for the past 30 years.
He recalls that his biggest concerns when establishing the self-funded start-up, Hydrus Technology, was "What if it doesn't work?" However, he quickly shook off feelings of doubt. "In the world of an entrepreneur you have to have an idea, the strength, power and fortitude to back yourself," he stresses. After four years of research, he felt confident in his knowledge of the technology and the market, and realized that the next step was to build a team.

Creating Powerful Partnerships

Of the company's early years, he recounts, "I engaged with an engineer and he helped to develop the technology. He already had a background in water treatment. Together we took the company to the next level, and then we engaged a chemist in 2012 to take it to the next level again. Until about early 2014, it was just myself, the engineer, the chemist and a financial controller that were the drivers of this business."

Queensland University of Technology sought the company out after hearing of their work through an Australian-based oil and gas company that wanted verification of the company's technology. QUT soon recognized the potential of the technology Hydrus had in development and decided to work with the company's team to improve it. Cam notes that QUT assisted them in "fully unlocking the technology," and in 2013, the two teams entered into a long-term strategic research and development relationship, which he credits for maximizing the company's growth potential and subsequently leading to the incorporation of Hydrus Technology in July 2013.

Technology that Recovers

The research partnership with QUT, a university that houses the $300 million Science and Engineering Centre, enabled Hydrus then, as it does now, to collaborate with senior scientists, and has given access to state-of-the-art research facilities and research staff. With QUT's support, Hydrus has engineered Advanced ElectroChemical and Catalytically Enhanced Oxidation technologies, which, the company reports, uses "significantly less energy, chemicals and labor inputs to achieve a greater treatment capacity, with a smaller environmental and infrastructure footprint."

The solutions that Hydrus Technology have created, which they license to on-ground implementation partners, involves proprietary electrochemical and oxidative processes that removes contaminants from wastewater including hazardous chemicals, heavy metals, refractory organics, bacteria and other harmful pollutants from the Energy, Mining, Industrial, Food Production and Agribusiness sectors. Hydrus' technology also reclaims iron ore from the wastewater from Alumina production, rare earths and precious minerals from mine tailings.

Widening the Scope

The global oil and gas sector has become a niche market for the company, as their technology has proven to be more advanced than others in the market. Cam notes, "We have the best fracture flow back water treatment solution on the planet. We know that because of the interest we are receiving from large oil & gas companies seeking a better solution than those currently available. Fracking is a highly emotive issue globally and Hydrus has a solution that satisfies the oil producers, the regulators and the environmentalists. 

Hydrus has observed two consistent dynamics when it considers the wastewater, mineral recovery and Environmental Remediation treatment markets globally: The more complex the wastewater or fluid stream to be treated, the lower the competitive landscape and the higher value to Hydrus and its customers. He continues, "We have been told many times by R&D companies around the world that we are so far in front of anyone else in terms of this type of technology, our understanding and application of the technology, that we can either disrupt the current market or enable forward thinking companies to improve their own water treatment processes."

Changing the Water Game

There are numerous ways to treat polluted water, including the traditional method of chemicals, however Cam emphasizes that none are as cost-effective, efficient or environmentally friendly as Hydrus Technology's. The company's adopted model, which is tight on cost management as it outsources its IT, manufacturing, and part of its on-ground implementation processes, allows the the team to concentrate their full energies on further developing existing and new technologies and high value solutions. "We will have a footprint on every continent treating many different streams of wastewater in ways that are more effective and cheaper and with the use of less chemicals and less manpower than ever before," Cam states.

It seems the company is well on their way to realizing their mission of helping to rehydrate the globe.