Aussie water tech noted for global potential

Posted 7 September 2016

Water technology companiesThree water technology companies have been listed among 38 Australian firms considered to have the greatest global potential.

The Australian Technologies Competition (ATC) finds mentors to develop technology companies capable of becoming game-changers.

Aquamation Industries – which aims to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation – was one named among the semi-finalists.

“From a global warming point of view, we have zero pollution going into the environment. The remains are 100% sterile and the family still get back the ashes, which are in fact bones, in both our process and incineration,” said Aquamation Industries CEO John Humphries.

“With incineration you've got airborne mercury pollution, toxic and carcinogenic fumes, 300kg of greenhouse gas and, of course, you've got all of this pollution going out at 1000 degrees.”

Aquamation is a chemical process – alkaline hydrolysis – which mimics the way bodies decompose in nature.

“It was discovered by the American agricultural department as a way to totally destroy mad cow disease,” Humphries said.

“It's now commonly used by research institutions and universities, but the process has been highly industrialised involving extreme temperatures and equipment that was certainly not suitable for small business locations like funeral homes.

“Aquamation Industries has developed a different technology to bring about the same result but with equipment which is totally safe to use.”

Bodies are placed in a stainless steel capsule and then flowing water, high temperature and alkalinity accelerate the natural course of tissue and chemical breakdown.

The technology uses just 10% of the energy needed for cremation and water use is kept to a minimum.

“It is a very small amount of water – we're talking somewhere between 300-600 litres to process each time,” Humphries said.

He hoped the award would help get the product to market, which has been in development for about six years. 

“We've spent millions on research and we're hoping it's not too far away that we'll have a much more sophisticated design. We'll then fully commercialise,” Humphries said.

Other water-technology companies shortlisted by ATC were Energy Made Clean (EMC) and Advanced Fertigation Systems.

EMC was also named in the Australian Financial Review's recent 50 Most Innovative Companies list.

Its solar water pumps combine industrial-grade variable speed drives (VSD) with solar PV to deliver three-phase power to submersible bore pumps.

Meanwhile, Advanced Fertigation Systems was recognised for providing a cost-effective water and nutrient management platform – SWAN (Scheduling Water And Nutrients) – that helps to manage water resources, allocations and nutrient inputs precisely and to plan.