The demand for natural resources is growing rapidly with human population, leading to depletion rates far beyond earth’s capacity to regenerate them. Excessive and wasteful use of resources has resulted in a host of environmental crises such as climate change, dwindling freshwater resources, widespread pollution, and loss of biodiversity.
Immediate action is needed to save our planet.
Introducing SideStroem; a water technology company founded with the purpose of combating excess ecological overspending by leveraging advanced separation technologies. SideStroem’s novel nanofiltration-type forward osmosis (NF-FO) membranes are optimized to maximize resource recovery and unlock productivity gains with an initial focus on textile, tannery and fermentation industries.
We sat down with Mark Perry, co-founder of SideStroem, to learn more. We spoke about how SideStroem was founded, barriers to the adoption of FO technology, how they are reinventing resource recovery using their innovative FO membranes and what’s next for the company.
Q. Can you tell us about your, and your co-founders’ background? How did you come up with your start-up idea?
Mark: We are a team of 3 co-founders based in Singapore and Malaysia with close to 40 years of combined experience. I bring commercial expertise to the team with extensive experience in technology commercialization, market entry, product and organization development. Zach Thye specializes in system design and providing solutions for water and wastewater treatment systems. Zuo Jian brings technology development expertise with substantial experience in membrane technology development and fabrication methods.
The majority of current wastewater treatment processes are tailored towards water and energy recovery. Recovering additional resources such as bio-solids, nutrients, and solutes further contributes to reducing the operational cost for water utilities as well as reducing ecological overspending. Hence, we founded SideStroem to reinvent resource recovery with an initial focus on selective recovery of minerals from wastewater, which currently represents an under-exploited resource with the potential of reducing the payback time for wastewater treatment systems.
SideStroem’s enabler is our novel nanofiltration-type forward osmosis (NF-FO) technology. The same technology will also unlock productivity gains in fermentation industries where specially engineered microorganisms are used to meet an increasing demand for hard to come by natural ingredients such as resveratrol, stevia, vanillin, and even saffron.
Q. The adoption of forward osmosis technology for commercial applications has been slower than expected. What are the possible reasons and what can speed up its adoption?
Mark: The commercialization of forward osmosis, like other new water technologies, has faced several barriers. These include lack of commercially available membrane elements at a competitive cost, selection of reliable FO draw solutes, safe disposal of the resulting brine/sludge, challenges in system design and limited number of pilots/full scale references demonstrating cost efficiency and operational stability. We see the lack of availability of membrane elements and full-scale references as the major barriers here. Good progress has been made over the last 2-3 years, however, commercializing forward osmosis technologies today is very much an exercise in identifying applications with substantial customer pains, where current technologies are either not applicable, inefficient, or very expensive. This is where FO technology adoption will see its fastest growth.
Q. What are the applications and sectors that you are targeting? What benefits does your solution offer to these end users?
Mark: We have identified two main applications where our technology is the right fit for customer needs. First, for simultaneous recovery of both water and valuable solute side streams from textile & tannery industries, where SideStroem’s FO technology offers the benefits of lower operating cost, faster payback time and recovery of valuable resources. Resource recovery will not only enhance the production capacity, but also help to achieve compliance with discharge regulations. The second application is in fermentation industries, where our solution for continuously removing ethanol from fermentation broths will allow manufacturers to switch from batch process to continuous production. This will unlock benefits such as lower unit production costs, improved productivity, reduced capital cost and elimination of washing steps resulting in reduced water use.
Q. What differentiates your solution from the competition?
Mark: SideStroem recognizes that forward osmosis membrane technologies hold several advantages over traditional pressure driven membrane technologies. These include lower membrane fouling, reduced pre-treatment cost and higher recovery rates. Moreover, FO offers added benefits in industrial processes by achieving higher quality end products as water is gently removed without the application of hydraulic pressure or high temperatures, protecting fragile components from undesired degradation.
We are the only company developing novel nanofiltration-type forward osmosis (NF-FO) technologies tailored to selectively recover & recycle both water and sodium chloride from wastewater streams in textile and tannery industries as well as tailored to selectively remove ethanol from fermentation broths in fermentation industries.
Q. What is the current development stage of your solution and what’s coming up next?
Mark: We are currently scaling our technology for industrial production and are excited to start piloting our first membrane elements in the near future.
Q. What is your future vision for SideStroem?
Mark: SideStroem’s vision is to reinvent resource recovery by means of advanced separation technologies and, thus, contribute to reducing global ecological overspending. Our first line of solutions will be forward osmosis based and down the line we intend to expand with complementary technologies developed in-house or licensed through strategic partnerships.
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