Let’s Start the Interview:
The Worlds Times: Explain the background of you and the Company in detail.
Reza Rezaei: I obtained my master’s degree from the AmirKabir University of Technology and was recognized as an elite student in chemical engineering in Iran. After that, I won an award from the University of British Columbia and immigrated to Canada to get PhD in water treatment technology development. During my Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Fellow programs, I worked as a research assistant in RES’EAU Water-Net. My job was to develop technology for small water systems providing water for communities of less than 3000 people.
I founded Aqua Intelligent Technology to solve the water problems of small, rural, and first nation communities in 2018. Small communities have three main issues;
- The source of water (e.g. lake, river, pond, etc.) is not protected and is contaminated because of upstream industrial and farming activities. It causes low water quality and reduces small drinking water systems’ lifetime
- Many small drinking water systems are old and the current solution, replacing the old water system with a new drinking water plant, is not affordable for small and rural communities.
- Lack of human resources is another issue with the drinking water systems in small communities. Small water systems are managed with one or two operators, which is not enough for this highly responsible job. In addition, consulting service for technical assistance is an expensive solution.
The Aqua idea was to become an affordable remote analyst and engineer for small water communities to optimize the water plants for making safe drinking water and assist the operator in proactively managing the plant without needing consultants.
We validated the problem by interviewing prospects in 2018 and built an MVP to test the idea in a drinking water system in 2019. As a result, we made the Aqua platform 101 and won the BC Fast Pilot award in 2020 to validate the product for solving the operational problem of two remote First Nation communities in BC, Canada. Aqua Intelligent Technology helped these communities reduce operation and maintenance costs (O&M) through remote monitoring and analytics services. In addition, it improved water quality by optimizing the chlorine disinfection process. Aqua Intelligent Technology’s current project is to improve the water quality of Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN) that was under a boil water advisory in 2017. The Aqua platform analyzes data to optimize the system and consequently improve water treatment.
The Worlds Times: What are your goals?
Reza Rezaei: The goal is to make safe drinking water for a million people by 2030
The Worlds Times: What do you feel is the biggest strength of AQUA INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGY right now?
Reza Rezaei: The biggest strength of Aqua Intelligent Technology is the team and the high quality of services.
The Worlds Times: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome during the journey of your leadership?
Reza Rezaei: The biggest challenge was to win a customer’s trust. Aqua’s solution is a new approach for solving small communities’ water problems. It is ten times cheaper and twenty times faster than the existing solution, rebuilding a new drinking water system. However, changing the client’s mindset was a big challenge. BC Fast Pilot and government grant helped us to validate the solution.
The Worlds Times: Give us one word that describes you the best.
Reza Rezaei: Die Hard
The Worlds Times: What do you value most about AQUA INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGY vision?
Reza Rezaei: Almost half of humanity still live in rural areas and are of low income groups. The poor rural population lack access to basic water supply (900 million) and safe sanitation. Aqua Intelligent wants to become the solution for these people in the world.
The Worlds Times: Tell us about a AQUA INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGY project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
Reza Rezaei: Sure!
- Lytton First Nation
The two small water systems (IR5 and IR4a), that supplied drinking water to approximately 20 homes were located in remote areas and were aged and inefficient, with high maintenance costs. The water consumption from these systems also varied extensively due to seasonal and occupancy variations. There were numerous complaints about the water’s taste and smell. Travelling to; inspecting and maintaining these small water systems created significant challenges that resulted in high costs for the community and a lot of work and stress for the Lytton First Nations water operations staff.
- Aqua Solution
The Aqua Intelligent solution consisted of:
- upgraded sensors to measure pressure and flow rate and the concentration of chlorine
- controllable chlorine dosing pumps
- Aqua Intelligent software and smartphone app
The upgraded sensors have a robust communications capability which allows them to transmit data under conditions of low or no cellular coverage to ensure reliable data transfer with the Aqua Intelligent software running in the cloud. In addition, water test results conducted by the water operations team and a record of maintenance tasks are uploaded into the Aqua Intelligent software via a smartphone app. The data from the water operations team in addition to the sensor data is used by the Aqua Intelligent solution to optimize the chlorine dosage and detect other system issues.
Aqua Intelligent’s solution allowed the Lytton First Nation’s water operations team to monitor the status of these remote systems 24/7 via a smartphone app without having to physically visit these water facilities. This saved them hours each day and provided them with peace of mind that the system was operating correctly. The app also alerted the operations team with early detection of issues enabling faster response and resolution, reducing maintenance costs and downtime. The Aqua Intelligent solution also improved the management of chlorine resulting in improved water quality and a reduction in complaints from the smell of chlorine due to overly high chlorine residuals at the tap.
- Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN)
The TCN Water Treatment Plant was constructed in 1987. The Community’s current raw water source is Split Lake. Since at least 2006, the water quality of Split Lake has been deteriorating as Lake Winnipeg feed water has been impacted by algal blooms, zebra mussel infestations, and increased turbidity and organic levels.
Tataskweyak Cree Nation was under a long-term drinking boil water advisory in 2017.
The Aqua Intelligent solution consisted of:
- upgraded sensors to measure flow rate and the concentration of chemicals, including coagulants and chlorine
- upgraded controllable coagulant and chlorine dosing pumps
- Aqua Intelligent software and smartphone app
The upgraded sensors connect the chemicals’ consumption to the control panel and our server, which allows the Aqua Intelligent platform to analyze the treatment process and notify the operator to adjust the chemical concentration to achieve high water quality (low turbidity and low organic level). In addition, water test results conducted by the water operations team and a record of maintenance tasks are uploaded into the Aqua Intelligent software via a smartphone app. The data from the water operations team, in addition to the sensor data, is used by the Aqua Intelligent solution to reduce the chlorine dosage (chlorine demand), which reduces the risk of Disinfection By Products (DBPs) potential formation.
- Expected Results
Aqua Intelligent’s solution assists the TCN water operations team to improve the process’s performance by proactively managing the chemicals flow to the system based on the Aqua platform analysis. The app also alerted the operations team with early detection of issues enabling faster response and resolution, reducing maintenance costs and downtime. The Aqua Intelligent solution also reduces chemical usage, resulting in improved water quality and operational cost reduction.
The Worlds Times: What are the strategies of your company and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
Reza Rezaei: The competitors’ (engineering firms and consulting companies) solution is not affordable for small and rural communities. Our solution, however, is affordable (ten times cheaper) and executed in a shorter time (months compared to years for designing and building a new drinking water plant)
The Worlds Times: What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career? Tell us something about your memorable incident in your leadership?
Reza Rezaei: The key is my personality. I am an entrepreneur and believe there is a solution for small cities water problem in the world. So my job is to work hard, be consistent, and focus on succeed.
The Worlds Times: How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Reza Rezaei: The number of clients will reach fifteen to twenty, making safe drinking water for 40,000 people, and the revenue will be $2.5M.
The Worlds Times: Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients are getting from your company in this competitive world?
Reza Rezaei: My dream is that all people in the world have access to clean and safe water. Unfortunately, water sources are contaminated due to industries and farming activities. It causes reduced treated water quality and drinking water plant lifetime. Another hand, the current solutions introduced by engineering firm is a roadblock to achieving this dream because it is expensive and cannot solve drinking water short lifetime because of world industrialization. I hope Aqua Intelligent Technology can be a solution for this global issue.
The Worlds Times: What are the services/solutions or products offered by your company as par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services?
Reza Rezaei: Aqua Intelligent Technology is developing its AI for optimizing chlorine disinfection, coagulation, filtration, and membrane processes for small water systems.
Connect with Reza Rezaei on Linkedin