Technology developed by Irish start-up nanobOx has important implications for fish stocks, the cultivation of crops and waste water treatment.
nanobOx is one of eight start-ups chosen to take part in this year’s Bord na Móna Accelerate Green programme.
The programme is Ireland’s leading sustainability programme designed to scale-up companies who are developing products and services based on green innovation in response to climate action and sustainability challenges.
“The technology is highly scalable, has no moving parts, is lightweight and readily integrated into existing water treatment processes”
The current cohort of businesses employ over 70 people with turnover of more than €5m.
The eight start-ups will be at the upcoming Accelerate Green conference entitled ‘Ireland’s Sustainable Future’ on 1 June 2023 at the Tullamore Court Hotel. Click here to learn more.
nanobOx has developed a novel water treatment technology and was late last year named winner of the Big Ideas competition for tech start-ups run by Enterprise Ireland.
A scalable idea
Dr John Favier, a serial entrepreneur and CEO, founded nanobOx along with Dr Mohammad Ghaani. They have developed a highly energy-efficient technology to oxygenate water using nanobubbles.
Many commercial bioprocesses require oxygen levels in process waters to be consistently maintained. This can be a significant operating cost for a process that can be critical to productivity.
In aquaculture, or the farming of fish stocks, for example, the energy cost of oxygenation can be the second highest expense after feed. It can represent 60pc to 70pc of operating costs in biological wastewater treatment.
Generating nanobubbles is particularly energy intensive, but with novel, patented technology nanobOx has managed to reduce the energy required to do so. Its nanobubble generators can be solar or battery-powered, and with no moving parts they are easy to clean and maintain. The company claims its technology is highly scalable and can oxygenate water at high flowrates.
“Maintaining the level of dissolved oxygen in water is a costly and critical component of a wide range of bio-processes including, agriculture, aquaculture, wastewater treatment, industrial fermentation and environmental remediation,” Favier explained.
“The water aeration & oxygenation equipment market is valued at over €100bn per annum. nanobOx reduces the energy cost of adding oxygen (or any gas) to water by a factor of 10 compared to existing technologies.”
“Our novel, patented technology uses nano-scale (< 1 mm) bubbles to dissolve oxygen, ozone and other industrially-important gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen in water. It generates nanobubbles by a passing a mixture of water and larger-scale gas bubbles through a low voltage electric field requiring only 10s of watts of DC power to operate at water flow rates of 100s of litres per minute. It also, uniquely, converts air into oxygen enriched nanobubbles that provide a reservoir of oxygen in the water for three times longer than conventional air nanobubbles. The technology is highly scalable, has no moving parts, is lightweight and readily integrated into existing water treatment processes,” Favier said.
Ideas that hold water
The founders of nanobOx are Dr John Favier (CEO) and Dr Mohammad Ghaani (CTO).
Dr Favier is a serial entrepreneur with a background in Biosystems Engineering R&D. He founded his first business in 2003 in the field of engineering simulation software as a spin-out from University of Edinburgh. He led the company to become global leader in its market segment and it was acquired by a US multinational engineering software and services company.
He later co-founded a process engineering consultancy business that developed process engineering IP for large-scale, automated cultivation and extraction of nutraceuticals from medicinal mushrooms. He has also managed a US-HQd engineering software company and most recently has provided business consultancy services to US and European B2B technology SMEs. Prior to co-founding nanobOx he worked as an Enterprise Ireland Business Partner to develop a commercialisation strategy for UCD’s nanobubble generation IP.
Dr Ghaani developed the nanobubble generation technology while working as senior postdoctoral researcher at UCD and is now a lecturer in environmental engineering at Trinity College Dublin. He has over 10 years’ experience in industrial R&D in both academia and industry and is keen to commercialise the IP he has developed and continue to advance the technology in both fundamental and applied research.
NanobOx has operated as an export-focused business from the very start. Favier said the business is currently in the process of closing its first investment round.
“We are a university spin-out commercialising platform IP and have attracted investment from a leading agritech VC investor.”
“We are currently engaging with prospective co-development partners and customers to further develop and trial our technology in field operations in our initial target markets of agriculture and aquaculture. These trials will validate our value proposition and help identify the most promising applications.
Our manufacturing operations will be in Ireland but, like many Irish B2B technology businesses, we expect to generate most of our revenue through exports so our business development, marketing and sales operation will be international. A priority for us early on is finding channel partners overseas.
Although he is an experienced technology entrepreneur, Favier suggests that founders consider participating in an accelerator programme to help refine their value proposition and business development strategy.
“We have had a great experience on the Accelerate Green programme, learning from domain specialists and from other participants. It has given us room and opportunity to think about who has the most need for our product, what value it will bring them and what will motivate them to buy it. The focus on sustainability and climate related solutions has also raised our awareness of the increasing importance of this aspect of our technology to our customers and to the environment and society.”
Main image: Dr John Favier, CEO and co-founder, nanobOx