In the lead-up to this year’s Sustainable Brands Innovation Open — our competition for startups poised to make scalable, sustainable impacts — we’re catching up with some of our favorite game-changing solutions from past years. This week, we have an update from SBIO 2014 finalist AkwaMag.
At the 2014 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open in San Diego, AkwaMag founder and CEO Tuyen Vo introduced his revolutionary water-softening solution, which uses magnets to induce crystallization of dissolved calcium and magnesium carbonate, making it easier to extract from water (“softening” it). In the past year, the company has pivoted its offering slightly and now aims to become the one-stop shop for all water softening, purification and filtration needs for both commercial and residential properties.
Akwamag’s original breakthrough technology centered around the magnetic removal of these minerals and calcite lime scale, which leads to less clogging in water-softening and filtration systems, and improves efficiency and water pumping through the RO membrane. The RO membrane is what takes out all the salt and water, or clean water with no ions.
So, why is this amazing? Normally, hard water damages pipes and appliances, creating ugly scale build-up on fixtures, equipment, appliances, dishes and shower glass. The traditional solution used to soften water is salt-based, which disrupts the salinity of groundwater by increasing the salt levels in water that is supposed to be filtered. And current solutions, as Vo reminded us in a recent interview, require too much maintenance, are expensive and pollute our already fragile clean-water sources with salt. In the process of softening the water, one inadvertently loads the wastewater with more mineral content. With the new AkwaMag process, the water remains salt-free after softening, increasing the usability for grey and/or reclaimed water. It saves money, reduces use of chemicals, increases reusable water and protects the environment.
Since its time at SBIO, AkwaMag has begun to expand into other product lines, specifically filtration and water purification: Vo is now producing and maintaining the filters that remove the minerals and other chemicals. AkwaMag now offers a complete water solution for any residential or commercial property with its modular filtration systems that reduce sediment, chlorine, lead, mercury, arsenic, iron, nitrate, organic chemicals (TOC), minerals and organisms. The company offers the largest capacity filters to maximize filter lifetime; the filtration systems can be standalone or installed in tandem with AkwaMag’s water-softening systems. Vo said the company’s most popular product is the two-stage sediment and chlorine filtration system that reduces rust and other particulates in water while improving taste and odor.
When asked about his SBIO experience, Vo stated that the principle mission of the company was not sustainability per se, but came about with the intent of cost effectiveness, efficiency and safer, less chemical-filled water. SBIO actually helped to pivot the company and launch it into the sustainability arena. This change in core, combined with exposure from the conference and access to a diverse, actionable network, helped give AkwaMag much-needed traction.
“The exposure that we received from Sustainable Brands is very, very useful. It was beneficial during the event, but also from the follow-up exposure. Winning is really just the icing on the cake. Going to the event is a win on its own.”
Vo said the biggest challenge was that the manufacturing process couldn’t initially handle the demand that came from all of the increased exposure.
If you have or know a startup that’s created a game-changing sustainable innovation, enter by March 23 for a chance to win cash prizes, consultation with a variety of industry experts, and a chance to showcase your product/service to over 2,000 representatives from major brands and organizations across the globe.