Two Indians among water-focused entrepreneurs to tackle freshwater crisis

Securing the world’s global freshwater ecosystems, under increasing threat from climate change, population growth and consumer demand, has become more critical than ever.

To tackle this escalating crisis, UpLink, the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum, in partnership with global conglomerate HCL Group, has announced 10 water-focused entrepreneurs, comprising two India’s, who will share CHF 1.75 million ($1.9 million) from HCL Group to scale their innovations.

Access to water plays a critical role in food production, education, job creation, health and well-being and the preservation of the natural world and is vital to achieving the UN’s 2030 sustainability agenda.

However, global demand for water will exceed sustainable supply by 40 per cent by 2030, with huge implications for the global economy and society.

The 10 start-ups are the winners of the Global Freshwater Innovation Challenge, the first of five challenges under HCL and UpLink’s Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative.

Launched in September 2022, the challenge called for innovative solutions that would strengthen data-driven decision making, improve freshwater resilience in the face of climate change and restore water quality around the world.

Through a $15 million investment over five years, HCL Group is supporting UpLink and the Forum’s Global Water Initiative to launch a series of innovation challenges and create an innovation ecosystem for the global freshwater sector on UpLink.

The 10 water-focused entrepreneurs, or “aquapreneurs”, were chosen from 227 solutions submitted to the challenge, and will now each receive CHF 175,000 ($190,000) in vital funding from HCL Group. Two of these innovators were selected to present their solutions at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos.

Epic Cleantec, based in the US, is a water technology company leading the water reuse revolution in the urban built environment. Aaron Tartakovsky, CEO of Epic Cleantec, said: “With the combined challenges of ageing infrastructure, growing urban populations and a rapidly changing climate, the conventional approach to how we manage water is no longer sustainable. Epic is on a mission to ensure that our cities are water-secure for generations to come.”

Epic aims to use its next-generation technologies to drive circularity in water use and to work with policy-makers to reshape the water infrastructure in cities.

Kilimo, based in Argentina, uses big data and machine learning to verify, improve, and offset water usage in agriculture.

Tatiana Malvasio, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, said: “As founders from Latin America, we have first-hand experience with the tension between agriculture and water stress in our region. In response to this challenge, we set out to create a product that could help farmers reduce their water usage and be more efficient in their irrigation practices.”

Kilimo uses artificial intelligence to help farmers optimize irrigation and then be compensated for their participation in water stewardship initiatives.

The Indian entrepreneurs to be awarded prize money from HCL and support from UpLink are: Indra Water — electrically driven, decentralized wastewater treatment solution with no added chemicals in its primary treatment.

NatureDots Private Ltd: AquaNurch (India) — derisking fisheries and water managers from ecological stressors, enabling remote-control and real-time monitoring of aqua-farms.

“We are delighted to announce the first beneficiaries of the Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative who have been selected after rigorous deliberation among a large panel of experts,” said Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson, HCLTech.

UpLink is the open innovation platform of the World Economic Forum, designed to unlock an “entrepreneur revolution” for people and planet by supporting start-ups with innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing issues, as outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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