How Ionic Solutions Trades High Pressure for High Efficiency in Desalination

Desalination has always been synonymous with high energy consumption and significant operational costs, but what if there was a way to make it more efficient and sustainable? Enter Ionic Solutions, a company that aims to revolutionize the desalination industry with its cutting-edge technology.

Let’s explore it:

with 🎙️ Jordan Grose – Vice-President of Commercialization at Ionic Solutions

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Full Video:

Redefining Desalination

When we think of desalination, we typically picture the energy-intensive process of removing salt from seawater. However, as Jordan explains today (and as we discussed with David Sedlak) for Ionic Solutions, desalination extends beyond seawater to include any water source from which salt ions are removed.

This includes brackish water, seawater, and even regular tap water. By broadening the definition, Ionic Solutions can apply its technology to a wider range of applications, addressing water scarcity in various contexts.

The Technology: Low Power, High Yield

What sets Ionic Solutions apart is their unique ion exchange membrane technology, which operates on significantly lower power compared to traditional reverse osmosis (RO) systems.

As Jordan tells us, this technology can achieve up to 97% less power consumption in certain applications, such as low salinity brackish water desalination. On average, Ionic Solutions’ system operates with 60-90% less power than conventional RO systems.

This remarkable efficiency is due to the way their membranes work. Instead of pushing water molecules through a membrane and leaving salt behind (as in RO), Ionic Solutions’ technology pushes salt ions across the membrane, allowing water to pass through more easily. This not only reduces energy consumption but also results in higher yields of desalinated water.

(and yes, this is somewhat similar to what MembrIon does)

Controlled Mineral Content

Another standout feature of Ionic Solutions’ technology is its ability to control mineral content. Unlike RO systems that strip out most minerals and then require re-mineralization, Ionic Solutions can adjust the mineral content of the output water to meet specific needs.

Whether it’s for drinking water or industrial applications, they can fine-tune the process to deliver water with the desired mineral levels, eliminating the need for additional post-processing.

Practical Applications and Benefits

One of the most compelling aspects of Ionic Solutions’ technology is its versatility. It can be integrated into existing systems or used as a standalone solution. For example, Jordan discussed a project with a utility in New York City where their technology was used to process RO reject water, recovering up to 90% of it as usable water. This not only provided significant cost savings (around a quarter of a million dollars annually in water bills) but also enhanced the sustainability profile of the utility.

The technology is particularly beneficial in industrial applications where water scarcity and high operational costs are prevalent. Industries that struggle with the limitations of RO systems or face stringent sustainability mandates can greatly benefit from Ionic Solutions’ low-energy, high-efficiency approach.

Overcoming Market Adoption Challenges

Despite the clear advantages, introducing a new technology in a market dominated by established methods like RO can be challenging.

Jordan acknowledges that market adoption is a significant hurdle. Many operators are familiar with and comfortable using RO systems, making them hesitant to switch to a new, unfamiliar technology. To overcome this, Ionic Solutions focuses on educating the market and demonstrating their technology’s effectiveness through real-world applications and technical conferences.

Success Stories and Future Prospects

The journey of Ionic Solutions is marked by innovative projects and successful pilot programs. In addition to the New York utility project, they have also explored applications in the lithium industry, where their technology excels in concentrating lithium brines more efficiently than traditional methods. This capability is crucial for lithium extraction processes, which are becoming increasingly important in the context of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Looking ahead, Jordan envisions further growth and wider adoption of their technology. They aim to continue scaling up their operations and exploring new markets, particularly in areas with severe water scarcity. Their modular and scalable approach allows for flexibility in various applications, making it a viable solution for both large-scale industrial operations and smaller, localized water treatment needs.


Ionic Solutions is at the forefront of a significant shift in the desalination industry. By trading high pressure for high efficiency, they are not only making desalination more sustainable but also more accessible and versatile!

My Full Conversation with Jordan Grose on Greener Desalination

These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂

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Antoine Walter: Hi jordan. Welcome to the show.

Jordan Grose: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s pretty exciting to be part of this, fantastic water industry podcast, probably the best one around, I would say.

Antoine Walter: Well, thank you. I will still be super Bad and nasty at you, flattery doesn’t work on me. No jokes aside, actually, I was looking through your websites before having that conversation.

Cutting the Desalination Elephant in Pieces

Antoine Walter: And, you’re defining yourself as the greenest, most sustainable water desalination technology. And that’s my nasty question.

You’re not the first on that microphone to come with the greenest And best desalination technology, but I won’t say that anyone is lying. I think it’s about how we define desalination. So what’s your definition of desalination? What are you aiming at? What are you challenging and what are you doing better?

Jordan Grose: In the water industry, when you say desal or desalination, everyone says seawater. And for us, desalination is any water that we’re pulling the salt ions out of. And so it could be brackish water desalination. It could be seawater desalination. it could even be, regular tap water desalination.

so really for us, desalination is anytime we’re removing any kind of salt ions from a particular water stream.

Unique Technology & Benefits

Antoine Walter: And so what’s special about your take at desalination?

Jordan Grose: Well, our technology is quite unique as far as we have found in that we can take the salt out of water. Pretty much better than anybody in the world. we do that with really exceptionally low power. and we can get very high yields out of, the waters that we process. so we have a number of other benefits of our technology, but, the power consumption is a big one.

Power Consumption & Efficiency

Antoine Walter: Power consumption, which is what I noted as substantially less energy. But when I read substantially less energy, how substantially and how much less?

Jordan Grose: , it depends a lot on the application, but, for example, we just, presented a paper at the International Water Conference back in November, and also at the Membrane Technology Conference back in March. And in those, papers we share that, we can do exactly what an RO is doing for 97 percent less power in that particular application, which is pretty incredible.

Antoine Walter: What application was it?

Jordan Grose: It was a low salinity brackish water desalination. so Not every application we do is as fantastic results as that. But in many cases, we can do, desalination for anywhere from 60 to 90 percent less power than reverse osmosis in most applications.

Antoine Walter: So in that low brackish water application, you were 97 percent better in energy. And as a standard, you would be between 60 and 90.

Jordan Grose: Yeah.

Antoine Walter: What’s the drawback?

Jordan Grose: it’s different than RO. Sonot everyone understands it. Everyone knows and loves RO and we operate differently. our technology is a membrane technology. but it is an ion exchange membrane technology as opposed to an RO membrane. So whereas RO is, Pushing water molecules across the membrane, tiny holes in the membrane, but the salt doesn’t get across ours is kind of the opposite.

In a way, we’re pushing salt ions across the membrane, but not the water.

Controlled Mineral Content

Antoine Walter: Which leads me to the other thing I noted in your summary of what your technology does, which is controlled mineral content, What does it mean to have a controlled mineral content?

Jordan Grose: That’s a really cool feature. But our technology is that you don’t always want to pull all the minerals out, especially, in drinking water applications, in different, applications where you just don’t need to strip it all out. So many RO applications, they’ll strip out most of the minerals and then have to backfill minerals back afterwards, which is a cost itself.

for us, we can output whatever mineral content you want. And so, for example, if you have 3, 000 parts per million water. And you just need to get the hardness out of it. we can take the hardness out by desalination and output 1500 parts per million water, 200 parts per million water, 500 parts, whatever you want.

, which saves kind of the post processing after the process, which is pretty cool.

Antoine Walter: I guess that might also have cool applications in industrial verticals, but I saved that for later in the conversation, so that’s a little teaser.

Ionic Solutions’ Elevator Pitch & Use Cases

Antoine Walter: Before that, your elevator pitch to ionic solutions?

Jordan Grose: , ionic solutions offers water desalination technology to, take the salt out of water for less power. Higher yields and, has controlled mineral content. And often we can actually reduce the amount of chemicals used for, anti scaling purposes as well.

so really, we’re interested in customers who have water scarcity issues, that are currently operating in our old plant and, we can help them either by augmenting the RO or by replacing it altogether.

Antoine Walter: So there’s a use case in which someone who has an existing system can have an upgrade thanks to your technology.

Jordan Grose: yeah, absolutely. And it’s a really fantastic application for us because pretty much, every reverse osmosis has their product permeate water and also their waste stream. And in most cases we can take that waste stream and give , maybe even 90 percent of it back to them as useful water.

And that’s one of the papers we wrote for the International Water Conference past November was returning 90 percent of RO reject back to the client as useful water. it’s a really nice application as well because it’s pretty low risk for the client and low risk for us because the client has a current reverse osmosis facility, they depend on that water and so for them to rip it out and put in a new young, immature technology is highly risky for them, for shutting down their operations.

Whereas when you have an existing RO plan, we can come in and say, well, look, let’s bolt it on to your existing RO plan, process your RO reject and give you useful water back, which will help your business for whatever you need it for, but in a low risk way, you know, if we have a bump in the road along the way, it’s not going to shut down your plant because your RO is doing what it’s always done.

Antoine Walter: So would it be a kind of minimum liquid discharge?

Jordan Grose: Yeah. You could call it that. Maybe we’ll trademark that. That’s a good one.

Antoine Walter: , I have to mention something which is really interesting. not conventional on that microphone, which is your role within the company. We have very often the CEO or the COO, and then we discuss about the founding of the company. Yet there’s one thing which is absolutely the common trait in all the early and growth stage company in the water tech.

It’s how do you bring it to market? And I have to say, I’ll have to grill you on that because that is exactly your role at Ionic solutions, right?

Jordan Grose: Yeah, that’s it.

Antoine Walter: How do you define your role?

Jordan Grose: My role is kind of taking a great idea and a great technology that’s in the lab stage prototype benchtop scale, really getting it out into the marketplace in the real world. and so that has a lot of different aspects to it. It has a lot of product development aspects, has a lot of manufacturing scale up aspects.

There’s a lot of sales and business development aspects. So it’s kind of a jack of all trades role in terms of assessing product market fit and really finding our target markets. and so there’s a lot in it for sure.

Antoine Walter: We’ll come to the product market fit in a minute. I just want to do a little bit of a zoom out, look at how the company was built from its foundation to the point we joined, and then we’ll go into how, once you have a cool product, you need to find the market for it. So, what is the story of the company?

Ionic Solutions’ Origins & Founders

Antoine Walter: Where does it start? And, how does one come with the technology you’re pushing?

Jordan Grose: It really started with the passion of our two founders, Barry Johnson and Azar Yazdanbad. And, over a decade ago, they came together. Azar, he’s a fellow who is a native of Iran and grew up in a, arid region where, you know, water scarcity kind of affected the daily life in so many different ways.

And, interestingly, he’s a geotechnical engineer. And so he did a lot of Work with, soils and clays and, dams and all these kinds of things. And, one of the interesting things that he recognized in doing that work was that Clay , has a capacitive nature to it. it’s, has an ability to, hold a,charge.

And he thought that capacitive nature of clays, maybe it could be applied to the water industry. And so he had this. idea, you could say, even when he was back in Iran, and eventually he moved to Canada and immigrated he had this idea wanting to work on desalination.

And that’s where he met Barry Johnson, who’s a really, passionate technology engineer. he could see the need for a better desalination solution in the marketplace, and so they joined forces, start developing this idea from a concept.

Antoine Walter: Was it really in a garage or is that the story which you have to put because yeah, all tech starts within a garage.

Yeah, yeah. And it was actually in this case, it was as ours basement. Variation of the garage.

Jordan Grose: yeah, but what’s interesting is, you know, pretty much the day after they met, they were in the local Home Depot parking lot discussing all the different things they needed to get their prototypes the ground. And so they were at the hardware store, buying these things the very next day.

So they’re very Practical fellows. And, they really spent the next decade developing this technology from this concept as our head to the technology where it is for us today.

Antoine Walter: A decade of development. I really should get a royalty every time I’m mentioning Paul O’Callaghan’s thesis on the dynamics of water innovation. I’m not getting any money. Paul, if you’re listening to that, you should pay me. But in his thesis, that’s part of the scheme. You have roughly 10 years of lab, and fundamental R and D.

And at the end of that, you get a first pilot, a prototype, which you can bring to the market. And then from there on. In the best case, it takes 12 to 16 Years. In the worst case, it takes 25 and north of that years. What is the shape of this prototype after these 10 years? I guess it’s roughly at the time you were joining the company, right?

Product Development & Market Fit

Jordan Grose: most of the work had been on bench scale, prototypes, but we had done some work, with commercial size cells, we call them. so as I joined the company, we were Just getting into the commercial scale cells. we had used, prototype components from different operators in the market.

and we were in the process of developing our own proprietary components to make technology.

Antoine Walter: What I’d like to understand here is a scope question. I mean, it’s one thing to have capacitive electrodialysis reversal technology. It’s another thing to have a skid which goes from flange to flange, can be bolt on in the back and in the rear and then treat water. What was the product at that time? And did it evolve after that?

so we are very fortunate to have, my colleague, Kevin Slough as part of our business as well. And he’s a seasoned water industry veteran. he spent, several decades, running a company that produced water systems and different water treatment, RO and all the different technologies, for what their customers needed.

Jordan Grose: he’s a really valuable part of the team, and really brought, what was needed in terms of getting it off of the bench and putting it in with, real water system components and piping and instrumentation he was another important piece of the puzzle to break it off the lab bench and into a real.

commercial scale system.

Antoine Walter: Which brings us to this product market fit question. You mentioned the product. It sounds like you have a product, which is not always the case at that stage, but you have a product. So now you need to look for a market. is the first? market you’re heading to, and how do you do that?

Jordan Grose: Well, our real core issue was we needed to find anybody who is willing to allow us to apply this technology in the real world. And so our first phase of our commercialization was really finding, people and companies that had an early adopter mindset. And that was really important for us because we needed to find people who are willing to, have bumps in the road to fail and allow us to fix them.

And so really, at the beginning was anyone with an early adopter mindset that could, , Apply this technology. We were really interested in talking to.  That let our story in a lot of different directions, but allowed us to find and explore product market fit and where we found the most value in the marketplace.

Antoine Walter: How do you spot someone with an early adopter mindset?

Jordan Grose: Well, it’s someone who will even talk to us to start the water industry. There’s a lot of knowledge that’s, very steady and everyone’s comfortable in it. And for anyone who’s willing to even try new technology, you have to have quite a few conversations to kind of get there , but really someone who has , an R and D mindset.

maybe it might be a company with an R and D department or an innovation department. and it could be just, a group or, some people who have really big pain points and they’re just willing to try anything.

Antoine Walter: still, is it like a municipality with a drinking water plant, so an end user, an operator, or is it an industrial player, which would be facing a problem where maybe they tried something else and it didn’t work, or is it like one of the larger. technology companies, which, as you mentioned, has an R and D department, and then you could be like this external innovation, which might be packaged into that solution at some point.

Where do you hit first?

Jordan Grose: We found closest people that had the mindset were actually industrial and light industrial.

Industrial Applications and Commercial Success

Jordan Grose: Folks who had kind of big problems, either they couldn’t do what needed to do with reverse osmosis or, they were just sick and tired the old game and are ready to try something new.

So that’s kind of really, . People with big pain points we found in the industrial sector. Now, in the light industrial sector, they also have some flexibility to try new things, in a low risk way. so that’s where we found municipalities are really hard, areas to crack into, unless it’s a small municipality.

And we do have a really nice pilot project story for a small municipality, typically the light industrial players that are more nimble and able to try new stuff.

Antoine Walter: Can you give me a concrete example of an industry you went in? What was the problem they had, how you solved it and what happens at the end of the story?

Jordan Grose: , we have, one customer in New York City , it’s a big utility. they have a lot of RO systems, but they also have a lot of strong sustainability mandates from New York City itself and New York State. Actually, New York’s a pretty fertile ground for, sustainability, improvements, probably second only to California in the U.

S., we had a combination of some water experts who can see the potential of, a better solution than the current reverse osmosis systems they have. Plus, they’ve got to show to the city and state that they’re making sustainability improvements in what they’re doing. they also have an R& D department who has some budget to try out new stuff.

and so what they found was, they explored different ways that we could apply our technology to some of their different facilities. What we found was, we could process their RO reject and for every hundred gallons of minute of RO reject water, we could give back to them as useful water.

It saved them a substantial amount, a quarter million dollars a year, from the city water bills. Because they’re just basically pulling water from the city system. And so there was kind of an economic incentive there, as well as , a new technology and R& D project for them to have a nice sustainable story as well.

Antoine Walter: So what’s your business model in such a case? , it kind of treatment as a service? Is it kind of water, which you would be billing by the gallon? Hurts my brain to say gallon. Uh, or is it like a capex sale?

Jordan Grose: It’s a CapEx sale to start. really right now we are an equipment seller. there is monitoring and maintenance that goes along with it. but currently we’re a CapEx sales, or equipment seller. It might be in the future with, municipalities with aging infrastructure.

And there’s a lot of situations where a municipality, small or medium municipalities don’t have the capital budgets to, do a full replacement of their aging infrastructure in the future. There might be ways where we could come in and do, water as a service with some financial backing kind of a business model.

But at this stage, we’re just selling equipment

Antoine Walter: Let me ask you a tricky question. Sorry about that.

Challenges & Market Adoption

Antoine Walter: Reverse osmosis has perks and downsides. No questions asked. But, operation of reverse osmosis is pretty well known. You know that if you don’t back what it would foul, so , you have the fouling , to reduce. You have to do the cleaning in place.

, the membrane is clogging after a certain time. You need to, to replace it. I mean, all of that is, is written in countless, I mean, I have the dug Mohan book , somewhere in my shelf in the back. everything is described over there. You’re coming with, what’s the little name you’re giving it?

Jordan Grose: C E D R.

Antoine Walter: I’m sorry. I’m guilty of not knowing the acronym perfectly yet. , but I guess the operation is different. I can’t judge if it’s easier or more difficult, but it’s certainly different. As an operator, do you have some pushbacks where they say, Oh God, it took me years to master my RO. Why should I learn something new?

Jordan Grose: Yeah, I mean, that’s a big barrier for us. This kind of market adoption and the technology mindset of how it works , is a big issue for us that, we need to educate the market on. , one of the interesting differences is that, operate at very low pressures. So, it might only be 30 P.

S. I, might be running through our system. Sorry for the P. S. I, units. Whereas, , R. O. Might be 600 to 1200 or maybe even ultra high pressure at 1800 P. S. I. And really, that’s a big part of where our energy savings comes from is because we’re Not having to pressurize the water with high pressure pumps, another difference in technology is instead of kind of you’re worried about constant cross flow rates , over your membranes, we actually just run the water through an electric field as you run the water through the electric field, the salt ions get mobilized and pulled across the ion exchange membranes is when that happens.

you get your salinity changes, you just up your current a little bit, if you get more salinity, more current, less salinity, less current and, , you just let it run. So , quite highly automated, but at the same time, there’s new considerations that you need to take care of, , as well.

We also have to CIP. Generally, it will be less because electro dialysis technologies is generally less, prone scaling because we do have this reversal feature, which ends up being, kind of a self cleaning feature as we reverse, but, the technology is quite different and so that comes with a lot of market education and a lot of training courses that are going to need to be put out to get people familiar.

Antoine Walter: You mastered that objection. So now I’m going to ask you for more. The background being when I started in sales, I complained to my sales director that customers kept complaining and saying, no, no, that doesn’t work, that doesn’t work. And he said to me, the day you come to me and you say, customers don’t complain anymore, I fire you because I don’t need you anymore.

So that’s your role as a sales guy.

Jordan Grose: Yeah,

Antoine Walter: what are the most common objections you’re getting to adopting your technology and how do you answer those?

Jordan Grose: it’s a good question. I think , a big thing is, the lack of a high pressure pump. , why we only have to operate at such low pressure industrial cases. you’ve got lots of pressure, and so we might have to step it down our technology. , the biggest kind of barrier is kind of the idea that the electricity is moving the salt.

As opposed to the pressure is moving the salt that’s kind of the, biggest, thing to get your head around, which is quite challenging. Otherwise, you know, you just press the button that says go and.

You just let it run.

Antoine Walter: It’s a physics question that they come to you and they say, Oh, I don’t understand how electricity is doing the job. And then you need to explain

Jordan Grose: Basically, that’s it. And then you let the water flow through and , you make sure your products what you need it to be and you carry on with your life.

Antoine Walter: the example you shared me about , this New York case, if I’m not wrong, is a pretty recent one. Right?

Jordan Grose: Well, it’s recent in the sense we’ve been developing it for the last several years. You know, you can imagine , as a utility, , they’re quite risk averse and, there’s a fair bit of validation on their part to validate our technology.

Antoine Walter: That’s my point. When we had the discussion some minutes ago about what’s the easiest way to spot an early adopter, which is still not easy, but it’s easier. The last one in the list was utility. And now you’re giving me an example of utility. So how long does it take you to break into the utility? You say you need years to develop the product.

How long is it? And what are the stages which lead to implementation?

Utility Partnerships and Piloting

Jordan Grose: , we’ve been working with this utility for three years. So it’s taken quite a long time. And the difference between them and other utilities is that they do have the sustainability mandates and an R. D. budget that they can fulfill. Yeah. You know, pull from to do new stuff. So, that’s what kind of tipped the scales for them being an early adopter.

but it did take time to develop the right project for them and find, the right champions to spearhead it along. but it’s a pretty interesting story. we started off with certain contacts within the company through a technology accelerator.

We are a member of. And kind of an innovation lead within the utility heard about us and started, , floating us around to their engineering teams within the business. And it took some time to find some folks, but, we were developing a particular project for a particular site. And, the folks there actually introduced us , to an organization called EPRI.

E. P. R. I. Is the electric power Research Institute. And what was interesting is, they were kind of interested is the electric power Research Institute. they’re interested in innovation and water innovation. So they wanted to take part in the project. And as we were progressing, this project slowly wasn’t taking hold in a lot of ways.

some other folks within the same utility Heard about our project through EPRI rather than within their own business. And these folks really took the bull by the horns and, really spearheaded the project after that.

Antoine Walter: If you’re doing a capex sales, that means that on such a project, when they are picking your technology, they need to be 200 percent sure that it’s going to be delivering what you promised because once it’s sold, it’s sold. You’re not really tied to it’s really holding what it was supposed to do. How long does it take for them to, I mean, is it piloting?

And if yes, how long do you need to pilot? What does it take for them to really get convinced that they can take it off the shelf and then it’s going to work?

Jordan Grose: One interesting story from these kind of folks that took the bull by the horns here, they came to visit us, and they heard about this project being developed, and they got on a plane, they came up to Calgary, Canada, and, they literally told us, they said, you know, we thought we were going to get off the plane, walk into this place, Find out you guys were a farce and an hour and a later we’d be on a car out to Banff to have a good time before we fly out again, and so we did tell him our story and they got to see what we’re up to.

And, what’s interesting is when they heard the passion from, one of our co founders as our, who I mentioned earlier, they heard him speaking about our technology and they saw his passion. It was, that’s what hooked them. and from there, they visited four different times.

they wanted to see us validate the technology from the bench scale to the commercial size cells we have, and to meet certain performance metrics, which they could. C would be applicable to their applications in their business?

Antoine Walter: Did they buy the full scale now?

Jordan Grose: Yeah. So right now we’re working on a pilot scale or a full scale cell pilot, which will be, in operation this coming September. we’re also designing a full scale unit that desalinate the full 300 gallon a minute RO reject from one of their RO plants.

Antoine Walter: So let me try to recap that, that means You are three year within the process as we speak, you will be putting a commercial small scale system by Q3 this year, and then aiming at a commercial full scale probably next year. So that means four years of development, four visits to Calgary for them and validation all the way from bench to performance tests all the way to that final full scale.

Jordan Grose: Yeah,

Antoine Walter: That means. If we take the assumption that in this market, everybody wants to be first, to be second, you had now your first lighthouse project.

Future Prospects & Lithium Applications

Antoine Walter: Does that mean that you will focus on that very specific municipal, RO reject route, or is it just one of the various tracks you’re following?

Jordan Grose: in our quest for early adopters. had a number of different tracks, small municipal. We’ve also dabbled in lithium and, brackish water desalination in, light industrial. And what we found in the power market is we do provide incredible value for power operators because pretty much every power plant has a water treatment system, whether it’s a steam plant or a gas, electrical generation plant, they have some type of water system.

They often have R. O. they might also have, a softening system or a demineralization system. And what we found is that we can provide a lot of value with their existing, plants. In their existing RO system with this bolt on RO reject, pretty much all of them, can use more water. And what’s really cool is we can desalinate their RO reject streams to give them more water. And often we use less power to do that than their RO systems currently using. And so they have a really nice sustainability story to go along with the project, which is fantastic.

Antoine Walter: I’m curious about the lithium application, because if I’m trying to align the dots again, you’re based in Calgary, which means. historic oil and gas fields, historic place where you find produced water in which it is pretty well known that you have some lithium at low concentration. If now I pair that with a technology which is able to very efficiently do designation of brackish water, which would be here the case, and which has this perk of being selective to the minerals you’re flying through, that sounds like the perfect fit for lithium applications.

What did you do in the field and would you consider it one of the North star in the future or something, which is. More of a side gig.

Jordan Grose: just so everyone understands, , how we use our technology in desalination, but also, we could call it lithium brine concentration. One pipe comes into the technology, two pipes come out, you know, the drinking water folks like pipe number one and the lithium folks like pipe number two.

But it’s really the same technology. and what we found in working with particular lithium customer was that we can concentrate lithium rich brines pretty much better than anybody in the world.

Water Management in Lithium Development

Jordan Grose: , the value that provides is that We can actually pull more water out, which can be reused, you know, which is really important.

Water management is a huge issue in any lithium development. and we can get the concentrations of the lithium brine much higher. So, then say reverse osmosis technology and for less power, so that there’s a lot of operational op ex expenditure benefits that we bring to the table in terms of the concentration of lithium brines.

Antoine Walter: you’re describing here makes me think that you might have a good fit in Canada.

Water Scarcity in Unexpected Places

Antoine Walter: I wouldn’t expect Canada to be water scarce, right?

Jordan Grose: Yeah, that’s what most of my local geographical brethren think too. But we’re all learning that water scarcity is coming in all parts of the world. and even in water rich Canada, we’re in the province of Alberta. We are having a drought this year and people are waking up to this new reality of water scarcity, even here.

Antoine Walter: I’m not trying to downplay the changes at work and I’m not trying to downplay the water scarcity.

Global Applications & Challenges

Antoine Walter: I was more thinking that if you’re heading to other places where they have produced water and where they have oil and gas, I would think that you’re the Middle East, there the water scarcity to start with is already much higher.

So if it’s worsening, it’s even worse. That might be a different field of application. And then the other place my head is just going to as if you look at the lithium triangle, yes, to have higher concentrations. So maybe they don’t need to concentrate as much, but it’s as well a very arid place. You look at Atacama, it’s the most arid place on earth.

So probably if what you just said, is true, which is that you are one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient way to concentrate a brine. I would see that as even a higher perk in those different geographies than in Canada, which leads to a different difficulty as a Canadian company and a Canadian startup, which is, do you want to go to geographies which are very far from home?

Jordan Grose: the main, customer that we had was operating in Chile already. And so they brought our technology to Chile. that was kind of a nice perk For them to, be doing the legwork in terms of getting into that, far away geography, but it is a big challenge.

And so we have to, if for us to go and to offer this to the lithium market, we do have to go to other geographies. Generally, there are some Canadian companies, but the ones, as you rightly mentioned, that are the most water scarce is where we provide the most value. So it’s a challenge and, we have to be selective in our customers and our projects for sure

Antoine Walter: So that customer who took your technology to Chile, did he take it from the U S to Chile or from Chile to Chile?

Jordan Grose: from Canada to Chile.

Antoine Walter: Okay. So that is an indirect story. That’s interesting because I was just trying to be stupidly clever because there are two companies operating in Chile and one is Albemarle, the other is SQM, one is US, the other is, but. Let me forget about my super clever, not clever question.

Technology Integration & Market Strategy

Antoine Walter: That means that you are integrating into someone’s solution.

Jordan Grose: Yeah, you can imagine for us, you know, we’re not selectively pulling the lithium out of the brine. We’re not getting rid of all the other contaminants. We’re just a concentration of technology. And so we have to plug in with another technology. Typically a DLE is who’s interested in us.

Antoine Walter: that’s my real question, which is about your go to market, because what we saw with the watch utility cases, it’s an upgrade. So they are bolting one more thing in the line. So then it can be on your technology. But if it’s a Greenfield project where you have to build the full chain, I guess you would have to integrate into something else or.

It would be like an EPC who would be ready to really cut it into very, very thin slices and then take the ownership of the full thing. So how would you go at a Greenfield project? Integrating directly to the EPC, what’s the go to market route?

Jordan Grose: for a substantial size plant, an EPC would slice us in as, you know, the concentration module or the water recovery module, is how we would fit into the puzzle.

Antoine Walter: So that’s one route. And you specified it’s for the large scale ones. If now we look at a different application you’ve been following, which is this trailer you’ve built for Northern British Columbia, I guess there you can do everything from A to Z.

Demonstration and Market Penetration

Jordan Grose: what that trailer was is actually a demonstration trailer. So it’s, a demonstration that we can take to different customer sites and allow them to park it on their site. try out the technology, have it function, let them learn, see, touch and feel it, it has the flow capabilities that they need, they could buy it.

or most likely it’ll be demonstration for a larger scale system that they would apply. trailer type system like that is what we use and we’ll continue to use to help us with the market adoption, the proof to show that this technology can work. You know, when an EPC does come along for a different, call it larger scale project, whether it’s lithium or otherwise, they would have the confidence to apply our technology in their plan, in their designs.

Antoine Walter: What KPIs are you looking at, which will tell you that Market adoption is a done thing, which you can check. And how far are you from that point where you can say, now we are market adopted.

Jordan Grose: that’s a long road. one of our strategies is starting with. The technical conferences because at the end of the day, it’s got to be an engineer somewhere who says, all right, I’m going to go with this. I’m going to stick my neck out and try something new. And so the technical conferences are where, the water engineers hang out. And so for us, a big part of our strategy is having real world demonstrations that kind of prove that it works and then sharing that, at, technology Conferences to help, bring the engineers on board to what we’re doing so that we could even pilot in their plant, maybe drive a trailer up to there and they can try it out and see it for themselves and how it functions.

as far as, market adoption metrics, the projects and the revenue will be the proof in the pudding for that, I see a day down the road where, when you go to a technical water conference, it’s, 99 percent RO topics right now, but, down the road when there’s, 25 to 30 percent of, CEDR or EDR type.

applications and projects. I think that will be a really good KPI for us to say we’re getting there.

Antoine Walter: So your ideal persona is this water engineer that’s within these all range of people who have an early adopter mindsets, you need the engineer to become your sponsor.

Jordan Grose: Yeah. I mean, whether they’re the earlier adopter or not, often they’re not, they’re the ones who are going to make the call and be the barrier in front of a project going ahead or not.

Antoine Walter: So , they are the gatekeeper, not the one who would be sponsoring, but once your sponsor is pushing the project. The gatekeeper needs to be convinced and those are the guys you need to convince.

Jordan Grose: Yeah. And often, I mean, they could, be the early adopter as well. But at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are responsible for the results of a project.

Antoine Walter: There is an element of scale as well in what you will probably need to build in the next years, because if Really you’re bolting on systems. That means if you want to go to the next level, you will need to have huge production capabilities. So what’s your roadmap there.

Future Vision & Expansion

Jordan Grose: right now we are interested in projects that are, under 300 gallons a minute as we kind of get out into the marketplace, down the road, we will, be once we get, several installations in the sub 300 gallon a minute range, which is really nice range for RO reject projects once those customers have gotten familiar with our technology.

They’ve seen it function well under you in an RO reject application at some level, they’re going to have an RO plant that’s going to need to be replaced and our technology can replace as well as augment. at those stages, that’s when you start getting into larger scale systems. our technology currently we call it a CEDR 50 commercial size cell is scalable.

it’s modular. so we can, Get into any type of flow rates needed with that size. But ultimately, there’s, you know, economies of scale and benefits from having bigger cells. And so down the road, we will have bigger cells. That’ll be more industrial scale as well.

Antoine Walter: But as the VP of commercialization, one of the paths is to build a big factory out of Calgary or out of wherever you want it to, to build another path would be to say, look, We’ve demonstrated the technology works in the field, we’ve built the beachheads. Now there’s all this array of water, EPCs, large scale OEMs.

Of all kinds, we could license the technology or we could even white label the technology. one path requires more cache, but then you still hold the control over everything. The other is a bit less cache intensive, but has other downfalls because you have less power in the story. So out of the two.

Which one would you pick?

Jordan Grose: Yeah, right now, the focus of our management in our business is really to hold on to the technology. , right now we are selling it. CDR systems, which basically is our cell technology, our core technology with the system, piping, instrumentation, all that goes around with it.

down the road, we’ll be partnering with, system integrators who would be, packaging the water system and we might be selling them the cells only. so it’s a model, in some ways, kind of like, you know, RO where, any kind of system integrator can purchase their RO, membranes and pressure vessels from, the standard folks, but they put it all together.

, down the road, as opposed to a licensing, we would probably be the folks who might be selling the cells and the system integrator might be doing all the stuff around it.

Antoine Walter: So that still requires, even in that scenario to ramp up your production capacity and to be that cell manufacturer.

Jordan Grose: That’s right.

Antoine Walter: Does that mean you have some fundraising scheduled in a close future?

Jordan Grose: So fundraising is a big key part of that story. really what we want to do is, create a meaningful business. It creates lots of jobs. it starts off in Canada, but eventually there’ll be different geographies around the world that really need our technology and , we’d like to cookie cutter plants, in different geographies around the world.

of course that’s going to require capital at different stages. Right now, at this stage, we are, scaling up our manufacturing, learning how to do it well, and eventually we’ll be creating manufacturing, centers in different areas of the world.

Antoine Walter: Before I ask you my closing question for the deep dive, which is a bit of a crystal ball one, I have a personal question for you because.

Personal Journey & Company Growth

Antoine Walter: You were working for Wood before joining, Ionic Solutions. Wood is one of these super huge EPC companies, and you’re jumping to a startup, which probably at the time you joined was even smaller than it is today. What? decides you to take that leap of faith.

Jordan Grose: Well, my history of wood, actually, when I started there wasn’t, I didn’t start with wood. I started with a small company called Beta Machinery Analysis. And that was when I joined, you know, I don’t know what it’s almost 25 years ago or something was, you know, a 30 percent company, and eventually it became a, you know, 100 percent or so company and then would bought us.

And so even after what bought us, we were still a pretty small organization operating within the giant behemoth, and within that small company. There’s a lot of opportunity for, entrepreneurial engineer like myself to be doing all kinds of new stuff to diversify the business, operating small companies within the big company and, in commercializing new ideas, new services, new products, and these kinds of things.

So although it looks like a big behemoth and I was in the nice cushy, you know, bureaucracy, actually I was in quite an entrepreneurial environment. And, it’s not a big jump from where I came to the kind of entrepreneurial setting of a startup,

Antoine Walter: How many people were working for Ionic solutions when you joined

Jordan Grose: two, I was employee number three.

Antoine Walter: and how much today,

Jordan Grose: we have 15 people today.

Antoine Walter: you’re almost back to the size of the team you had in your previous company within Vood. It’s interesting because , it’s a scheme which we’ve discussed with Craig Beckman from Aqua Membranes, because he was. On small teams that got acquired by big companies and it wasn’t a fit for the big companies was super happy to return to do the small scale where you really feel like whatever you do has an impact, which can be diluted in larger entities,

Jordan Grose: Definitely.

Antoine Walter: which brings me to my crucible question.

If you look into the future of ionic solutions, what are you building on? I don’t know if it’s mid run or long run. tell me. And what will tell you that you had an impact?

Jordan Grose: our mission really is to increase water security for people around the world. And, you know, We want to make an impact on the everyday Joe, even though, we’re operating in the industrial space.

What we found is that when we help industries save water, they take less from the everyday. People living around that industry, for example, in New York City, this utility, when they’re operating at full capacity, they might use 20 to 30 percent of the water in Manhattan so every gallon or cubic meter that we save of water that we can return back, they can reuse that actually is a cubic meter of water that goes back to the people of New York.

And that’s the same with , any. Folks that are living around any industry. so for us, really trying to make an impact where we’re, you know, making industry more efficient and the longterm, there could be a CDR under your countertop at home. , if you’re pulling water from a well, that’s another place where we find a lot of market pull is folks who are using groundwater, especially coastal areas where the seawater is, coming into the groundwater aquifers and making the more saline.

There’s a lot of, salty water wells out there that need desalination. And down the road, you could see an ionic solutions, part of maybe your friend’s acreage or some small community on the coast.

Antoine Walter: In that long term vision, would you see yourself as a B2C company or a B2B2C company, which is creating the modules, then smaller and distributing through the water filters company?

Jordan Grose: Most likely it’ll be B to B to C. we’d probably have a consumer product partner along the way. right now we love industrial because we don’t have to make it look good. it doesn’t have to be sexy and, and, you know, on your, on your countertop. but down the road, yeah, we, we’d likely have a consumer product partner.

but it’s definitely something that, we think can make an impact for, everyday people’s lives.

Antoine Walter: Super cool., if I was nasty, I would say, in industrial, it needs to work. Doesn’t need to look good, but it needs to work. Countertop, as long as it looks good, it probably doesn’t even need to work, Yeah, that’s opening another box and I don’t want you to push into that.

Jordan Grose: That’s true. Well, actually, what’s interesting, we have done some work in consumer products, in India because, water stress nation, everybody has an RO system cleaning up the tap water to make it drinkable. And unfortunately the recovery for these low pressure consumer level ROs is, maybe 10%.

20 percent if you’re lucky. so you got 80 90 percent of the water going down the drain as reject water, which is a real tragedy in a water stressed nation. our technology has some opportunity to help that a lot. We can flip that around, maybe get 70 80 percent recovery. as drinkable water, and so there is some opportunity for partnerships that we’ve looked at in the past.

it may come in the future.

Antoine Walter: It’s a bit late for that question. I’m sorry, but, I’m curious. when you’re opening a new market with a new tech or opening a new approach with a new tech, it can be difficult and almost dangerous to be alone. It’s often pretty good to have like two, three other companies pushing the same type of technology, not the same thing, but the same type of technology. Within that ecosystem, who would be your neighbor company? Companies like MembrIon, would that be close to what you do or who would be like closest type of companies to what you’re trying to push?

Jordan Grose: Yeah, it’s any company that actually has an electro dialysis product. our technology is quite different and much simpler than traditional electro dialysis. But I’d say they’re our closest compatriots in this game. So yeah, MembrIon has, their membrane technology and they are making the system or the cell, the electro dialysis technology around it.

And there’s a number of European companies, that have, traditional electro dialysis as well. so they’re probably the closest compatriots, but what we’ve found so far is that the traditional electro dialysis performance can’t touch what we’re doing. And so we have quite a substantial advantage, in that we can actually compete and beat.

The performance of reverse osmosis, whereas traditional electro analysis of pretty niche applications that, you know, for whatever reason, R. O. Can’t operate or provide as much value as they can. But we can compete head on with R. O. Which is really cool.

Antoine Walter: Well, from the logic, it’s a bit late for me to ask you, but it was a super good answer to a widely misplaced question. So thanks a lot for that one. if that’s good for you, I propose you to switch to the rapid fire questions. Yeah, it sounds good.

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Rapid fire questions:

Antoine Walter: , what is the toughest challenge in your opinion for a water tech startup?

Jordan Grose: for us, it’s market adoption. we have got a market who knows and loves RO and, it’s hard for them to look anywhere else. And it’s hard for them to believe that, other things are possible and the performance we claim is possible. Also because, there is some knowledge of traditional electrodialysis out there.

And it can’t do the stuff that we’re saying. And so there’s an inherent hesitation to believe us because, there’s familiarity around some other, traditional technology. So really, market adoption is our biggest challenge.

Antoine Walter: Which leads to the story you told us about people flying to Calgary with the hope that they could just go and enjoy the day because they would disprove your technology in a blink and then they get surprised that they don’t.

Jordan Grose: That’s right, exactly.

Antoine Walter: What would be your best single piece of advice for the founders and managers of the about 1000 early stage water startups?

Jordan Grose: you know, the water industry problems are vast and wide ranging, Focus where, your technology or your service can provide the most value, and where there are people willing to pay for that value. A lot of people want the value, but don’t want to pay for it, actually.

And so , being able to focus on those areas where provide the most is just critical. you know, technology like ours, we can provide value, you know, so many different wide ranging applications, around the world. it’s really endless on where this technology can apply.

But if we don’t focus and find the folks that are willing to pay for that incredible value, the most value, . We can provide great value to many, but if it’s not the most, and having folks willing to pay for it, you’re not going to last too long,

Antoine Walter: And at what stage should they start paying for them to be like the ideal customer

Jordan Grose: right up front.

Antoine Walter: and the realistic customer now?

Jordan Grose: No, I think there’s realistic customers. I mean, the good news for a water business is that we are in a water stressed planet. There are all kinds of, climate changes happening all around that are changing the world. And what we once thought of this water security is not secure anymore.

So there’s a lot of motivation to change. there are customers out there who are willing to pay you to pilot. They’re willing to pay you to develop with them. hunt them down and find them because They’re the best way you’re going to help your business keep going.

Antoine Walter: What’s the drop of knowledge you wish more investors knew about the water sector?

Jordan Grose: I think the biggest thing we find is that so much attention goes to greenhouse gases as far as climate change and everything. I shouldn’t say nobody’s talking about water, but there are very, too few people talking about water, especially at the government levels.

we have big water problems around the world and there needs to be more attention. a certain amount of attention that has to shift from GHGs to all the water challenges that we’ve got. I think investors that can help, Push that and change the narrative and shift the narrative, would really, really help the world right now.

Antoine Walter: I fear they will learn it the hard way, but yeah, what can we do about it?

Jordan Grose: The hard way is on our, on our doorstep for sure.

Antoine Walter: your most unexpected partnership and what did it bring you?

Jordan Grose: Yeah. Our most unexpected partnership actually came from the electric power research Institute. you know, they got a sniff of what we were doing in the power sector and , They actually paid for some of our early piloting, or, you know, benchtop scale stuff.

And, , they got to see the data firsthand. In fact, they’re going to be putting out a report on our technology sometime this summer. in seeing the data and the performance firsthand, they really became a real kind of channel to market for us because they know it, they love it now, and they’re willing to introduce us to. additional power companies along the way. it’s, been a kind of a surprising unexpected, , partnership, I wouldn’t say, an official partner, but, within the water segment, the people definitely recognize our value and are willing to introduce us to, power companies that are struggling,

Antoine Walter: Super short, profitability or growth?

Jordan Grose: profitable growth. I have to say both.

Antoine Walter: You’re cheating.

Jordan Grose: I’m cheating. Yeah. it’s an interesting, place. I mean, we’re in the water industry is not like, the tech industry where, you can find a gap in the market, bring a product, fill that gap and, get the consumers quickly.

it’s an industry that takes time. There’s dwell time. There’s this market adoption issue we’ve been talking about. And so, profitable growth is necessary because of the kind of longer timelines to get a technology to market. And, we’re not in, the era of easy money, willing to, pay for growth at whatever cost

so really , most investors and most companies are requiring some amount of profitability as we grow, but we need to grow.

Antoine Walter: That’s a very thorough answer, so I have to push a bit on that one, but are you profitable today?

Jordan Grose: We are not. no, we’re still depending on investors money, but We do have revenue in our way to profitability.

Antoine Walter: What’s the next profile you’ll hire?

Jordan Grose: Really? the last few years have been focused on technology development and manufacturing scale up so we can, produce for the customers that are interested. These early adopters that we found. and really, the next big push will be sales for us. so big sales push to develop our chosen markets and really drive the adoption within those chosen markets.

Antoine Walter: are you looking for sector experience or startup experience?

Jordan Grose: in terms of sales for that particular role, sector experience is a big plus. generally in the startup realm, we’re looking to recruit for different roles, versatility. Is key. And so we’re really looking for versatile individuals who have the capability and the willingness to play at different places where the business might need them.

the first thing we look for is versatility. If we can get that with industry experience, then that’s a really winning combination. but not crucial

Antoine Walter: Opening new markets or doubling down on the existing ones?

Jordan Grose: for now we’re, piercing our opening markets. So we’re, we’ve chosen, this power sector and really the RO reject reclamation sector within that kind of power and light industrial. and so really we have to focus on those and there’s great potential. There’s great projects.

There’s a huge value we can bring, but we really have to develop those markets as they are before we start developing new markets beyond that.

Antoine Walter: What’s that tool nobody speaks about, but you couldn’t live without?

Jordan Grose: I find, there’s not enough discussion around collaborative prioritization. I would say within a business. the ability for a company to prioritize collaboratively. So everyone knows what’s going on. Priorities can be shuffled amongst the deck to really bring what’s really important for the business.

And I think it’s, not well discussed in a lot of, business spheres is really how do we prioritize and do it collaboratively so we don’t silo our business in the different departments and different pieces of the business.

Antoine Walter: Would that be kind of an agile methodology where you have the standup meetings every morning and everybody gets to know what’s on the to do list of everyone for the day?

Jordan Grose: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s kind of grown up out of agile for sure. and that’s, a good way to put it.

Antoine Walter: What’s the single piece of insight your ideal customer profile needs to hear right now?

Jordan Grose: Well, if you’re an ideal customer, if you’ve got scarce, water sources for your business, and you’re currently running an RO plant, we can give you more water for your existing water volume that you’ve got, by using your RO reject stream. And, we can pretty much. do it for less power than , you’re currently spending on your R.

O. today. so that’s, yeah, we’re really interested in folks with an R. O., fixed water source and, and an R. O. that has some reject , we could process for them and give them back useful water.

Antoine Walter: So more water, less power. What’s not to love about that?

Jordan Grose: Exactly,

Antoine Walter: Probably the price, but alas. Sorry, with my stupid joke, lost my track. What are you desperately needing and want to raise an open call for right now?

Jordan Grose: we’re really looking for long term investors who are interested in a high impact water technology company, really, you know, investors that want to get into water, are not scared of manufacturing. And wanted to make a big impact on the water industry’s future. that’s really what we’ve got an open call for right now.

Antoine Walter: What can and should I do for you?

Jordan Grose: Well, it’d be great you could be our friend. You know, and tell folks you might interact with what a cool technology company we are and help us, with folks who have, you know, water reject problems and water scarcity problems. Will you be our friend?

Antoine Walter: For the friend part, no questions asked. Happy to. I promise you, if there’s something which resonates with what you shared today, I’d happily share your contact but I think you would do that even better.

So if people, after listening to that, want to follow up with you, what’s the best place to redirect them to.

Jordan Grose: Yeah, definitely. you can contact us either on LinkedIn or our website. we’re quite active on LinkedIn now feel free to contact me and, get in touch on our website we’d be happy to talk to you.

Antoine Walter: As always, the links are in the description. So check it out.

Antoine Walter: Thanks a lot, Jordan, for everything you shared today and also for addressing that bit less told on that microphone story of how you bring the technology to market in concrete steps. And what is the next milestone which we should celebrate by having a follow on, on that microphone?

Jordan Grose: When we have a unit operating in New York City would be a great one. we also have another few units going into different power companies around. so, yeah, we’d love to share those stories once we get those units in and share the value we brought to those companies.

That’d be fantastic.

Antoine Walter: Well, super happy to be your medium. when you have that to share, I mean, really looking forward. That’s different use cases, but which I think have very, very promising merits. So thanks a lot for everything you shared today and talk to you soon.

Jordan Grose: Yeah. Thanks so much, Anton.

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