Food & Agriculture Program (2014)

Imagine H2O Announces Top Startups in Global Competition to Advance Water Security

Organization to Connect Innovative Water Technology Businesses to Market Leaders in Food & Agriculture Sector

SAN FRANCISCO, March 19, 2014 -- Amid ongoing drought in leading agricultural regions, Imagine H2O, a global nonprofit organization catalyzing entrepreneurial solutions to water challenges, today announced the winners of its 5th annual Business Innovations Competition. The winning startups receive a total of $200,000 in cash and in-kind services as well as access to customers in the Food and Agriculture Sector.

Aerial crop monitoring startup TerrAvion won the early-stage track of the competition. California Safe Soils, a startup recovering water and nutrients from food waste, won the growth-stage track. Startups from Canada, Australia, Israel, and Wisconsin were named runners up. These teams led an international field of over 70 water entrepreneurs from 11 different countries. Among the leading trends in this cohort were waste-to-value and water data collection and management.

"From an industry perspective, it's exciting to see numerous entrepreneurs and startups around the world addressing this critical need for new technology for reducing water use in food production," said Imagine H2O Judge Chris Morrison, Assistant Vice President of Global Water Technology Partnerships at Ecolab. "Large and small beverage and food firms are now looking for improved devices, chemistry, and programs to reduce water waste."

Imagine H2O's judging panel, which includes leading industry experts from companies such as Google Ventures, America Water, and True North Venture Partners, based its selection of the winners and runners up on their commercial viability, customer value proposition, go-to market strategy, and financial plan.

Imagine H2O's approach to technology innovation connects startups with international market leaders. This year's accelerator program, in collaboration with the BlueTechValley, features over a dozen leading commercial growers and food processors, including Groupe Danone's Stonyfield Farms, Earthbound Farms, Paramount Farms and SunMaid, together representing over $30 billion in annual revenue.

Global food production accounts for 70% of total freshwater use, according to a recent U.N. report. California, which leads the U.S. in agricultural production at $47 billion in annual revenue, uses as much as 80% of available water. Amid the drought that continues to grip this region and much of the Southwestern U.S., the need for improved water resource management via innovations in the food supply chain becomes increasingly dire. Since its founding in 2007, Imagine H2O has become the platform through which those needed business innovations reach water customers.

"With uncertainty comes great potential for disruptive technologies and business models," said Imagine H2O COO Scott Bryan. "The recent droughts in major food-producing regions like California poses an opportunity to entrepreneurs, businesses, and policymakers alike to take bold action toward securing a sustainable water future."

Imagine H2O's portfolio represents 1 in every 10 dollars of investment into new water companies. Over 350 startups have participated in this program. The program's major financial supporters include Wells Fargo (Headline Sponsor), Grundfos, Cooley LLP, the California Water Foundation, and the Stiefel Family Foundation.

Finalists Announced

Imagine H2O's 5th Annual Competition Accelerates Promising Water Innovations for the Food and Agriculture Sectors

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 8, 2014 --  Imagine H2O, a nonprofit organization that supports market-based solutions to water challenges, announced the finalists of its fifth annual business innovations competition today. The twelve companies selected to advance to the second round will compete for over $200,000 in cash and in-kind service and admittance to Imagine H2O Accelerator's program. Imagine H2O's previous winners and finalists collectively represent 1 in every 10 dollars of early-stage financing in the water sector. This year's winners and runners-up will be honored at Imagine H2O's Entrepreneurship Showcase and World Water Day celebration on March 18th.

A 2012 U.N. World Water Assessment Program survey indicates that agriculture currently accounts for more than 70% of global potable water usage. As many of the leading agricultural regions in the U.S. continue to be gripped by drought, the need for innovative water resource management in food production becomes increasingly dire. Imagine H2O's proven path-to-market opportunity advances emerging businesses that offer promising solutions to this and other looming water challenges.

"Entrepreneurs are responding to a growing demand for water innovations that contribute to global food security," said Imagine H2O Chief Operating Officer Scott Bryan. "This field is rapidly evolving and Imagine H2O is excited to be working with some of the most promising technology startups addressing the food and agriculture sector's water needs."

Over 70 start-up companies from 11 countries submitted entries related to Imagine H2O's current Food and Agriculture theme. Competitors presented a diverse range of methods to improve water management within the food processing and agriculture industries. The program's major financial supporters include Wells Fargo (Headline Sponsor), Grundfos, Cooley LLP, the California Water Foundation, and the Stiefel Family Foundation.

Each finalist will also receive admittance to the Imagine H2O Accelerator, which includes access to beta customers and pilot partners. The inaugural Beta Partnership Program, developed in partnership with the BlueTechValley, features leading commercial growers and food processors that together represent over $30 billion in annual revenue.

Imagine H2O's judging panel, which includes leading industry experts from companies such as Google Ventures, Ecolab, and True North Venture Partners, based its selection of the finalists on their commercial viability, customer value proposition, go-to market strategy, and financial plan. The finalists, listed alphabetically, are:

Early-stage track

OptiEnz Sensors (Fort Collins, CO) www.optienzsensors.com sells an in-place monitoring system that continuously measures the concentration of organic chemicals in water, milk, juice, and other liquids using a patented replaceable enzymatic sensor tip. A wide range of organic chemicals can be measured, enabling applications in a broad range of markets including food and beverage, industrial biotechnology, and the environment.

Precision Hawk (Indianapolis, IN) www.precisionhawk.com is an end-to-end solution for solving the Big Data problem in the agriculture space. Precision Hawk manages the challenges of flying a UAV, conducting complex aerial data collection along with the management, storage and processing of that data for the user.

TerrAvion (Livermore, CA) www.terravion.com provides a service that delivers aerial maps and imagery for agriculture overnight at low cost. This system allows growers to monitor the canopy of every tree, vine, or plant in the field every week and adjust their inputs, particularly irrigation, to increase yield.

WatrHub Inc. (Toronto, ON) www.watrhub.com is a data and analytics company that delivers actionable intelligence for the Municipal, Industrial, and Agriculture Water sectors to enable faster and more confident decision making.  The WatrHub Online Intelligence Center helps water and wastewater technology companies find timely and actionable sales leads, and connects water and wastewater operators with their peers to share best practices.

Wellintel (Shorewood, WI) www.wellintel.com develops groundwater technology and information systems to help homeowners and farmers learn about and sustainably manage their groundwater resources. With these insights customers secure property value, improve service, lower costs, and make groundwater sustainability possible.

ZYMtronix Catalytic Systems, Inc. (Ithica, NY) www.zymtronixcs.com eradicates antibiotic-resistant bacteria in contaminated agricultural waters and captures the pharmaceuticals used to target them. ZYMtronix decreases the costs of ensuring healthy livestock, helps deliver the public's need for a pharmaceutical-free environment, and provides a solution for meeting government-mandated environmental quality standards.

Growth-stage track

BioGill (Sidney, Australia) www.biogill.com uses breakthrough technology in the biological treatment of wastewater. BioGills are above ground, non-submerged bioreactors that provide the ideal oxygen rich environment for microorganisms to thrive and break down nutrients in the waste stream. Biogills are helping businesses achieve regulated discharge standards at low cost and low energy.

California Safe Soil (West Sacramento, CA) www.calsafesoil.com provides unique full-cycle Fresh Food Recycling technology, turning organics from supermarkets into liquid fertilizer for farms in only three hours. This fertilizer assists California Safe Soil's agricultural customers in saving money, improving crop yield, and reducing nitrate runoff into groundwater.

Livestock Water Recycling (Calgary, AB) www.livestockwaterrecycling.com equips dairy, hog, and anaerobic digester operations with its innovative and cost-effective manure treatment technology. The technology recycles clean water and fertilizer nutrients from livestock manure for reuse at the farm, reducing fertilizer waste and improving water efficiency.

OndaVia (Hayward, CA) www.ondavia.com delivers a fast, laboratory accurate, microfluidics-based water analysis system that enables real-time, trace-level chemical analysis. Using Ondavia's portable instrument and analyte-specific, consumable cartridges, users can measure water contaminants down to part-per-billion levels on-site, in under five minutes.

Silver Bullet Water Treatment Company (Denver, CO) www.silverbulletcorp.com provides a safe and highly efficient water treatment system for HVAC cooling towers and livestock drinking water systems that eliminates bacterial growth and controls calcium scale buildup and corrosion. The system increases the operational efficiency of a cooling tower, saving water and energy. In livestock drinking systems, the Silver Bullet System eliminates bacteria without the use of hazardous chemicals to improve overall herd health.

Tal-Ya Agricultural Solutions (Tel Aviv, Israel) www.tal-ya.com features trays specially designed to concentrate water and fertilizer directly to the root of each plant or tree, creating a "personal greenhouse" for each plant. These patented, easy to install trays enable farmers to prevent weed growth and reduce water use by 50% and fertilizer use by 30%, while accelerating growth dramatically. The farmer is able to improve his ROI and obtain more from each acre.