AcuaCare- water treatment using worms

AcuaCare- water treatment using worms: A low cost and sustainable solution for water treatment in rural areas

Bogota, ColombiaColombia
Year Founded:
2012
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The technology used by AcuaCare allows biological treatment of wastewater using earthworms and microorganisms which transforms the pollution in the water into organic fertilizer and allows the reuse of the treated water for irrigation; The operation is 70% cheaper than traditional technologies.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if.. we could use worms to treat contaminated water so we can protect our environment and our rural communities ?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Around 85% of the contaminated water in Colombia and Latam is not being treated; causing serious problems in our environment, our communities and our productivity. Additionally, between 70 to 80% of our fresh water is used for irrigation, having a big problem in the way we treat and manage our resources.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Make water treatment using worms, microorganisms, and organic material. With this technology the contamination is turn into bio-fertilizers (humus), we can produce worms that are useful for feeding animals and the water can be reused for irrigation, reducing the consumption of fresh water for these kind of purpose. The process is simple, first we need to separate inorganic solids than come in the water, and then the water is spread over organic layers full of worms and microorganisms; they are in charge of treating the water while it gets out of the filter by gravity and through an inorganic filer at the bottom.

Awards

"Mention of honor in agriculture" by the department of state at the Global entrepreneurship summit, "Startup with social impact" by the IDB and pepsico. Selected as one of the twelve most sustainable companies in latam by the world environmental center
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Miguel, the owner of a rural house used to send its sewage water to a bench near his home. His sons, used to play besides that bench.... We build the water treatment plant with his help and now his house is not contaminating the environment. He is saving 30 m3 of fresh water for irrigating a field of oats since he is reusing the treated water for that purpose. Once a year the system gives him around 160 kg of organic fertilizer, meaning savings for his family on his supplies for agriculture. And the "vermifilter" produces around 20 kg of worms that can be used for feeding his chicken or plant them in the soil to improve fertility.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Annually , with the systems we have built, we are treating around 16,500 m3/year , water that is being recycled , reducing in the same proportion the consumption of fresh water ; enough water for covering around 16 million of square meters for irrigation . Additionally the systems can produce annually 5.5 tons of organic fertilizer and about 920 kg of worms. Also, we built a water treatment plant that can treat 24 m3/day to provide the service of treating water to the people that doesn't have the space nor the money to buy one for themselves. We developed a portable solution based on a geomembrane structure so the system can be built faster and is being used in a small facility of milk gathering in a rural area . And for the future, we intend to build machines that help us compress the organic material of which the system is built, so it can be carry in a faster and cheaper way.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Once we have the machines for compressing the organic material, we want to mix the geomembrane structures and the compressed organic material , to become a service provider of water treatment; having no initial investment for our clients. By having the organic material well packed we can export the product and give guidelines in how to build the tanks that hold the material (or we can send the geomembrane structures in packages if the owners don't have construction knowledge). Therefore, we can reach rural areas in different parts of the world that needs low cost solutions of water treatment
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We plan to have a service provider model of water treatment where we are in charge of building the structure in geomembrane , operate and provide the service with no initial investment of or client (we need investor that fund the construction) . And the other income option is by selling the organic material and the structures in the cases that we dont have the operational capability to travel to the location where the solution is needed.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are several companies that offer water treatment systems with traditional technologies with operational costs that are around USD 0,7/m3 treated, demand lots of energy (1kwh/m3 trated) , need chemical supplies (generate mud) and are complex on its operation. With AcuaCare, the operational cost can be around USD 0,2/m3 , we don't produce mud, instead we produce bio fertilizers and worms. We need 0,075KW/m3 for the treatment and anyone can operate the system, reducing cultural barriers. And if we compare us with natural systems, as wetlands, we need 4 times less area than they do.
Team

Founding Story

Our CEO, Juan Carlos Guáqueta, since he had 16 years old he built a sustainable farm that produced flowers, bulls and bio fertilizers (using worms). Years later he learned about an old technology, known as vermifilters, that could treat water using worms with low efficiency. He partner with Juan M Gutierrez, an expert in water treatment, to create AcuaCare and work with this technology with small scale solutions for rural houses. In the process AcuaCare reached high efficiency, with up to 96% on removals of organic materials and solids in the water and with operational cost 70% lower than other technologies. That's when we realized the huge potential we could provide for the people.

Team

Our team have an expert in water treatment (Civil Engineer- 17 years of experience with master degree), commercial expert (Industrial Engineer -15 years of experience with MBA), Strategy/ entrepreneur (Industrial Engineer with 9 years of experience), Chemical Engineer (8 years of experience), Environmental engineer (2 years of experience), production staff and allies in construction industry. We are a great mix between technical knowledge , creativity and commercial background that can take this company to the next level. For the future we intend to have industrial designers, mechanical engineers and a good mix between industrial , environmental and civil engineers to keep the balance
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Friends share me the information by facebook

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Cofounder, and CEO.

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Clean Water and Sanitation.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have been part of several startups in different areas. "Guaqueta nv" was my first company, I sold bulls, flowers and bio fertilizers. Then I created a business line for a construction company for preserving wood of the houses (is a family company www.benhabitat.com).
Then I founded an small hotel in a rural area with sustainable practices that support local production and promotes wild life preservation; www.chaletandino.com
I started a condo outside the city also with a sustainable model that improves environment and have social impact called Village d Marie www.villagedmarie.com
And while I was making my master degree I helped in the process of building two software startups that worked with gamification and social media in Chile.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are members of an accelerator called connect Bogota and we received mentorship of experts in different fields of knowledge and commercial support. Also we are members of George town University leadership program called GCL; Having a multidisciplinary network in over 17 countries.
And finally we are members of a network built by the world environmental center called "Paths to prosperity". They help us with the connections and mentorship in case we want to expand our operations to other countries in the region.