How to Clear Crazy Pollution Loads in an (Electrical) Breathe

with 🎙️ Orianna BRETSCHGER, Founder & CEO @ Aquacycl

💧 Aquacycl is an award-winning, woman-owned Water Start-Up that might reshape your vision of hard-to-treat wastewaters.

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What we covered: 

🍏 Microbial Fuel Cells: when amazing natural bacteria species breathing electricity can be triggered to treat incredible COD levels

🍏 Two simple product design and product-market fit moves, that enabled Aquacycl to make it economical where others failed

🍏 How modularity and ease of use empower a perfect fit to an industrial process’ variability. (and how this can be linked to 𝘔𝘢𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘦) 

🍏 How source-remediation lightens the burden on the municipal wastewater treatment plant downstream

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥 

➡️ Get the 3 Page Synthesis for free!

What if Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) was so high, conventional biologies would be totally out of touch?

Is it possible to treat incredible COD and TSS loads, while keeping it easy as pie for end-users thanks to Plug & Play solutions?

Check out the best of an Episode, that's full of treasures, from growing a start-up in the water industry to being a Female lead company in a Men's world!

Orianna Bretschger Infographic

Resources:

➡️ Send your warm regards to Orianna Bretschger on LinkedIn

➡️ Check out the Aquacycl website

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is on Linkedin ➡️


Full transcript

Antoine Walter:
Hi, Orianna, welcome to the show.

Orianna Bretschger:
Great to be here.

Antoine Walter:
Usually you are based in San Diego, but I heard that right now, you are in Nevada, in Las Vegas. So let me just ask you to send me a postcard from there. How is it today?

Orianna Bretschger:
It is bright and sunny. Nice and moderate temperature.

Antoine Walter:
Actually, I was intending to start with the San Diego story because that just made some research. And as I noticed that you are an expert in pitching your company. I was thinking, you know, there’s this famous thing of the elevator pitch. And I found that the elevator, which goes to the highest place in San Diego takes about 30 seconds. So I was thinking why not asking you to make an elevator pitch in 30 seconds, which would be your take at that?

Orianna Bretschger:
All right. AQUACYCL provides onsite wastewater treatment as a service for industrial food and beverage customers. Oftentimes we will save our customers anywhere from 20 to 60% against the cost that they’re paying now to discharge, to city sewer, or haul off site. We’ve got an energy neutral solution that provides a performance guarantee, always saving our customers money.

Antoine Walter:
Wonderful. I think with many things that we will unpack in a second, but just before unpacking all of that, I was just wondering, having a look at former interviews you’ve been giving or at your resume I’ve found online. How does one transition from aerospace to finding a wastewater treatment startup? How did you end up in this industry? I mean, it must be so cool. Aerospace,

Orianna Bretschger:
Not as cool as wastewater, not at all. Well they’re both very cool. You know, my path to where we are now has certainly not been direct. My undergraduate degree was in physics and astronomy and that’s actually what brought me to aerospace. So I was doing, I was working for a commercial company in the electro-optical systems department, basically doing guidance systems for missiles. So I was able to apply my degree in physics and do some modeling, you know, basically looking at electron flow and how electrons can be controlled and new digital systems. And that was the first iteration of CCD cameras, right. Which we all have in our phones now. But back in that day, that was revolutionary technology. And so really my love of electrons and understanding electron flow is what brought me into wastewater through my graduate work, where I was studying, how bacteria lose electrons to each other and to their environments and how this electron movement actually generates electricity and facilitates respiration or the ability to breathe within these bacterial systems.

And kinda in that study, that’s sort of just graduated on into a practical application for now. We have a kind of a different type of metabolism that we can exploit specifically for wastewater treatment because how we move electrons from bacteria in this generation of electricity process actually controls their metabolism. So the more electricity we make, the faster these bacteria breathe and the faster they eat. And so we’re able to really do some very cool things in wastewater treatment, simply by how we’re controlling electron flow across a circuit and therefore electron flow in a biological system. And that’s most wastewater treatment is biologically based, but now this is a whole new approach to how we can apply it for very specific and unique purposes that may not fit necessarily in the conventional infrastructure.

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Antoine Walter:
So basically for the stupid like me, it’s bacteria that breathe electricity. Right? Yep. Exactly. Is that your secret sauce or do you have even a different taker at the market or at the metric, which would be your secret sauce?

Orianna Bretschger:
Well, our secret sauce is really much more in the manufacturing and development of components that take advantage of this capacity. So the biology is super cool. Nature did that, right? We can’t take any credit for that. And my group, when we were doing research and my group now on the commercial side, you know, we were one of many groups trying to understand how these bacteria work, where they are in the environment. My group then kind of took a leap out of the academic research space and into commercialization. So then, okay. Take our fundamental understanding of these natural bacteria and what they do. And then let’s build engineered systems around them specifically to control them for what we want them to do, our special sauce. Isn’t that control mechanisms.

Antoine Walter:
Okay. That’s fascinating. I’m sure we will dig a bit more into that, but just before starting to dig, I’d like to again, ask a question for the stupid microbial fuel cell, which is what we are talking about right now is around for not decades, but good 15 years and still, I’m not sure it was really popularized to the stage that everybody listening to this right now understands how that works. So can you just make it really for this two piece? So they brief electricity and through that you can trigger the fact that they eat the organic

Orianna Bretschger:
That’s right, exactly. Yep. That is exactly right. And you right. Microbial fuel cells. The concept has been around for a very long time. And in fact, the first publication about a microbial system generating electricity was in 1911 and the UK. And there’s been various spins and iterations on studying these processes and how to put them to use. But it hasn’t really been until the last 15, 20 years or so that we’ve known enough, understood enough about the biological mechanisms to then begin a commercialization process.

Antoine Walter:
It’s over one century old, crazy. It takes a while. I mean, it’s a constant in this industry. It’s not the fastest movie in three, so I can understand why it takes it was, but I’ve read something really interesting in one of your interviews where you were saying that the fact that others had some takes at that before with a different approach than you, and didn’t succeed with their different approach, isn’t helping you, which I can. Of course, there’s a conservative industry that tries something and they burn their fingers. I’m not sure they come back with it and still you’re successful. Then you found your, your niche. So what makes you so different? What’s your different take at that matter?

Orianna Bretschger:
The biggest part of this industry of course, is the municipal and residential, right? The large centralized plants. And that’s the biggest market opportunity where a lot of big players are very successful integrating conventional technologies and often, you know, so from the business case, the approach has always been, let’s develop an energy neutral solution to fit into that market. Well electrochemical systems, which is what a microbial fuel cell is, right? It’s a bio electric chemical system has very specific parameters relative to scaling that. You know, if you take a conventional environmental engineering approach is going to be very challenging, right? To get it past the lab because you can’t just add a bigger tank and a bigger pump and a bigger electrode, right. To make it work better. And to make it scale because of all of the different reactions, the reaction chemistries and the, you know, all of the different, multiple dynamics that are happening within bio electric chemical systems, you have to be really careful at how you scale because bigger is not better.

And that’s the approach that we took is that in order to maintain the efficiencies, right, both on the biological side and the energy recovery side, we needed to keep things pretty small. And so when we were doing our development, we made all kinds of mistakes, too. We wanted to do the big tank and the big pump and the big electrode. And we tried that and it failed miserably. And, you know, but we did that under the research environment and we learned a lot from it. And so when we went back to the drawing board, we boiled down to a battery size standard car, battery size module. And we came up with the very, very specific dimensions, which enables us to optimize all of the different reaction chemistries that have to happen in that little black box. Right. And then to commercialize it, we just figured out how to make that little black box really cheap so we can multiply them.

And, you know, we, we stack them together like Legos so that we can have meaningful treatment capacity and treatment quality right. At an industrial site. So that’s kind of the technology development side. That was a little bit different spins on what we did, but also the market that we’re addressing is a bit unique. So we, you know, I mentioned the biggest part of the market is that municipal side, but this technology is not a great fit for that. The municipal wastewater is actually very low concentration in terms of chemical energy that you can recover as direct electricity. And so, you know, when you’ve got an anaerobic digestion, that’s digesting the sludge, right. It’s digesting the concentrate and that’s where they’re getting the energy out. So if we’re going to take a basic wastewater flow, which is a hundred million gallons a day, but you only have 400 parts per million of chemical energy in there, right.

It’s better to have a big tank and a blower and do activated sludge. I mean, it just is right, but on the, on the sludge side or on these really high concentrates, which pads, you know, these really difficult peaks of concentrates into centralized systems that make, that may result from industrial processes like food and beverage production, right? Even at small volumes, these production facilities are discharging concentrations that are now a hundred thousand parts per million, 50,000 parts per million into the sewer. Then you start to get these spikes, right. And it’s just a lot of sugar, but it makes it more difficult, right? For the larger centralized facilities to predict what their energy input needs to be, you know, waste activated, sludge return, all that good stuff. So the niche that we’re addressing is basically point source remediation, right? It’s industrial pre-treatment because our system is now really uniquely defined to take these concentrates without dilution and knock them down right before they get to sewer.

So that helps reduce the surcharges for the customer to the sewer, but it also helps the downstream treatment plant because you don’t see these spikes. So you’re not getting these really consistent loads. Now, if you’re in a huge city, that doesn’t matter as much because your flows are, you know, millions and millions of cubic meters a day. But when you’re in a small municipality where a lot of these industrial settings are up and running, that becomes the challenge. And so we’re addressing that part of the market. So small municipalities, big facility discharge, and basically being the buffer between the industrial discharge and that small municipal treatment plant and, or eliminating the hauling that might have to happen to a,

Antoine Walter:
So basically it’s the industrial sites where you have the highest CBD concentrations, I guess I’ve seen, you know, I had to I’m French, I’ve seen it. You have references on my unit plans. So knowing a bit than by Inez, I don’t know if it’s a, really the real millionaires, but still, it must be ICU. Gee, I could imagine high turbidity, maybe hive is because it’s really difficult conditions, right?

Orianna Bretschger:
Yes. And that’s what we like the dirtier, the better, that’s a really high energy content. It’s high suspended, solid. And we don’t like a whole lot of fats oils and grease. Right. We were kind of limited to around 300 parts per million. So sometimes we’ll need to put a dissolved air flotation ahead of our systems to minimize that fat oil and grease before it comes to us. But we love the concentrated sugars. We like higher conductivity. Wastewaters high TDS doesn’t bother us. We don’t remove any of the TDS, but it actually enhances the power production. And yeah, we liked the higher TSS as well because that’s more organic energy.

Antoine Walter:
So you mentioned the dissolved air, flotation you treatment is not a one, one step or one size fits all. If I get it right there, the treatment friend, you have some conditions to fulfill and you can have a pre-treatment that helps in that case.

Orianna Bretschger:
That’s absolutely right. And to be honest, I don’t think that there ever will be a one size fits all solution, right?

Antoine Walter:
If one day there’s one thing like that, we all lose our jobs. So,

Orianna Bretschger:
But insurance, right? There’s not a silver bullet. There’s so many unique conditions, especially in the industrial side that you have to plan for a lot of variability on the industrial side, because, you know, you’ve got plant shutdowns for cleaning. They shut down for the holidays. It’s not a 24, seven operation in many conditions. And so you got to have a technology that is robust enough to be able to deal with that. And that’s another kind of benefit that we’re able to provide is if it’s not continuous flow all the time or consistent flow all the time, it’s okay. Right. We can handle that variability, which would otherwise be very challenging for say an activated sludge system, but, you know, putting together post and pre treatment is important, but it’s all defined based on what their customer requirement is. So it’s all a little bit unique. Each thing

Antoine Walter:
Decentralized, it can be, I mean, it’s really flexible. You can handle the fact that sometimes it’s shut down, sometimes it’s on, sometimes it’s off. And if I got you right, just before you were mentioning this car Bradbury aspect, so basically you can then multiply and scale to the needs of that specific site. And if those needs evolve, then you just add more of the car batteries. Right?

Orianna Bretschger:
Exactly. We have that in a containerized footprint, right? So your standard shipping container, 20 foot, 40 foot, and we’ve got a certain number of batteries we can put in each configuration. And so it usually ends up being, you know, a multiple container type of job if it’s a high flow, but sometimes we can accommodate treatment and a single 20 foot container.

Antoine Walter:
And so if I got it right, your differentiation doesn’t stop with the technology. You also different shifts in the fact that you offer a treatment as a service. What exactly is the service? Is it the treatment capacity itself? Or do you, let’s say I’m this and mayonnaise plants because you know, I’m French. I have to take my NS. I keep that one. I’m this industrial, what is the service exactly about it is it’s you treat a certain amount of water or you offer me a treatment capacity. So it’s a, is it a means or an end goal that you’re offering as a service? It’s a little bit of both.

Orianna Bretschger:
Right. And it really does depend on what the customer needs. So in every scope of work, we know there’s going to be a range of volumes that we’re going to have to deal with, right. Especially if it’s a dynamic production environment. So we may see peak flows on Wednesday and no flow up Saturday, right? So we need to plan for the peaks and the valleys, but ultimately right. What the facility is going to be governed by is their discharge permit. And so what we’re treating to is to ensure that they always stay with them, permit compliance on their bod and TSS discharge, right? And so we’ll accommodate the volume and we’ll figure out to what quality do we need to treat the water so that we can guarantee performance to their existing permit. So the service includes the use of the equipment and the monitoring capacity, which is already built into the equipment, right?

Because we’re generating an electrical signal out of each one of these batteries, we’re taking a data point every five to 20 minutes off of those reactors and all of the embedded sensors that we’ve got. So we know exactly what’s going on at all points in time. And so we can catch any potential issues before they become problems. And it’s very easy for us to troubleshoot remotely. So there’s not a need necessarily for full time, 24 seven operator to run our equipment, right. We still have that service visits and regular maintenance, a part of the service, but you don’t need somebody sitting onsite there, you know, looking at the screen. So we do that remotely. So that’s part of the service. And then all of that right. Is tied together with that performance guarantee. So how much do we have to treat and how clean do we need to get it,

Antoine Walter:
Come up with this idea of providing a service instead of a good physical good.

Orianna Bretschger:
Some of it evolves from the modularity of the technology, right? Because when we’re installing a unit, we’re not digging holes in the ground, this is not permanent infrastructure. And so it gives us the flexibility. So for whatever reason, right, if they’re changing their production model to higher volume, we add another container and we upgrade on the service. If for whatever reason, you know, or are reducing their capacity, we can actually take some of the equipment out and charge them less. Right. It’s very flexible to the customer need, but it also is good for us as a business because we have a recurring revenue model and, you know, these are multi-year contracts. And so the technology and the way that it’s configured as enabling there, but we’ve also learned, and we’re not the first ones to do this wastewater treatment as a service approach. But what we’ve learned in the sales cycle, within the water industry, of course, that’s long, right.

But especially as a new technology with very, you know, many, many fewer case studies than a Suez or Veolia or Q Rita, you know, we have to be able to provide flexibility to the customer and how they’re purchasing. We can’t ask them to purchase a million dollar piece of equipment that nobody’s ever heard of before. It’s just not gonna, that’s not gonna fly, but what we can do is say, okay, look, we’re going to provide a performance guarantee. We will fix anything that breaks, and we’re not going to charge you for it. And we’re going to do this on a full op ex model. You have to put a little bit of money down is that security deposit. But, you know, we will promise the service for the duration of the contract period. So it’s a negotiation every time, but it takes the pressure off of the customer

Antoine Walter:
That might be appealing for an industrial, because that means if his business is running, basically he has the money to pay for the OPEX. And if he’s down, because for whatever reason, industry’s shut down and with the pandemic, we know some industries which are in that case. Well, it doesn’t have to be either because it doesn’t have some wastewater. So it sounds like a win-win.

Orianna Bretschger:
And of course there’s always a, you know, a minimum payment, right. Cause we, we still have to make some money too. But we can slice the contract and a lot of different ways, right? So there’s that minimum. And then there’s overages, you know, based on volume or based on surcharges, but most of these customers are already managing their wastewater on an OPEX budget, whether it’s, you know, paying surcharges to the city sewer or paying a third party vendor to haul their wastewater off site and put it somewhere else. So, because we’re, you know, basically continuing onto a model they’re comfortable with that also helps.

Antoine Walter:
What I’ve read is that if, for instance, they are today paying a fee to destructure the sewer, your system is actually saving them money. And your figure was saying savings of 50 to 95%. So that’s, that’s a huge,

Orianna Bretschger:
Really high end on the high end. Yes. I mean but, but we’re also seeing, you know, even a 20% saving on surcharge costs is very attractive.

Antoine Walter:
Even one person is already something. I mean, it’s really about you produce you good water. A wastewater is an after thought, it’s just a cost. So if you can reduce that cost, of course it’s a it’s of interest.

Orianna Bretschger:
Yeah. So it’s been fun learning about all of these different challenges that all of these different industries are facing. Mayonnaise is different than confection. It’s different than wine. So it’s been fun to learn from our customers too.

Antoine Walter:
So basically your system comes in that shipping container, you plug it onsite and it’s really plug and play in the sense as well. That’s you don’t need to bring any energy to that container because basically energy is the byproduct of your operation and of your treatments.

Orianna Bretschger:
It can be, but we don’t actually sell that back to the customer. Right. Okay. So one of the innovations that we’ve been driving forward is right now just being very energy efficient. So even if we’re not harnessing the energy that we’re recovering in, the treatment process with the power bill is going to be to the customer is extremely low. It’s, you know, tens to hundreds of dollars a month for them to operate a single one of our containers, right. Which is barely a blip on the op ex budget for most of these facilities. And so even if we’re not towering ourselves, the energy cost for running us is very, very low. And that’s another benefit, right? Because in order for us to recover that energy and make it useful, because right now we’re measuring it, right. We’re dissipating it and we’re grounding it out.

Essentially we have to install the battery pack, right. And then most efficiently, because we’re making DC power, we recharge that battery pack. And then we run our units off of the battery pack. And if there’s any excess, we have to add extra storage capacity. And then the customer could take advantage of that for charging electric forklifts or EVs or led lights in the facility. But that’s all, that’s more infrastructure costs. You know, there’s extra planning to that. There’s more space allocation required to that. So even if we’re not talking about the energy recovery side of it at all, just the efficiency and then the reduction in that, in the management of wastewater is really where the biggest selling point

Antoine Walter:
Is that good for you in the future to achieve this neutrality or even grip positive aspect?

Orianna Bretschger:
Absolutely. I don’t think ever grid positive, but yeah, I think, I think neutral and I think maybe a little bit of extra positivity where we could, you know, we could do something like an EVs charging station, right. But probably not more than that. And that is absolutely a goal for us in the next couple of years, you know, we’re defining our R and D process to move toward that, but it really is also a function of customer demand. If this is something that’s interesting to the customer, we’ll, we’ll develop it, but otherwise we’re not going to spend too much more time on it until we know that there’s going to be a, you know, a payback for our efforts

Antoine Walter:
Makes sense. You’ve mentioned Suez, Veolia Cavita do you work alone or do you sometimes partner with those companies to fit into a bigger picture?

Orianna Bretschger:
We certainly know about all of those folks and we’ve had some wonderful collaborations and discussions with many of the larger companies, but we are as Aqua cycle, pretty small potatoes relative to the types of projects that those companies deploy. And we do, we kind of fit into a very unique market niche that they’re not necessarily addressing, right. Small onsite industrial treatment is these would be pretty one-off projects for companies of that size. And so we do work with engineering firms, especially on any of the civil infrastructure upgrades that that needs to happen at the plant site. That’s not what we do, right. We, we tie in our technology, but you know, if there’s a concrete pad that needs to come in or, you know, any of the electricity panels that we need to access, right. We will work with them. We’ll work with engineering firms to do that. Usually the customer recommends who they want us to work with, but we, you know, we encourage collaboration and, and all of those post and pretreatment technologies, right? That’s not. And so it’ll be, we work with a multitude of different types of companies early stage, mid stage, big companies to learn about what’s out there and, and how we can work together for the best solution.

Antoine Walter:
So you’re a small potato, but you’re an agile potato and a, and a collaborative one. I wouldn’t have done it, but

Orianna Bretschger:
We got some potato starch wastewater where we’re checking out.

Antoine Walter:
I think that’s one of the most famous experiments you can do in science is to try to power a simple thing with a potato. So somehow I see a link on the market perspective. You know, it, it has been intensive emanates time. Even the big ones are starting to buy themselves one in another. I mean, this story’s ongoing, but I was wondering for a company like you, what does the bath, how do you see that coming in the next two years next five years? Is it like you are going to name that niche and try to grow from that niche? Or, I mean, you don’t necessarily have to grow outside a niche. I mean, you can be the King in that kingdom or the queen to be fair, or what’s your vision in two years or in five years, where do you see Aqua cycle?

Orianna Bretschger:
Well, I see office cycle is profitable. That’s our first goal, get the business to a point where it’s profitable, you know, engage our customers. So we’ve got good word of mouth, right? Where we we’ve got happy customers and case studies that we can share. And through this process of getting to profitability, you know, we’re consistently driving down our cost of goods, which means now we can open up new value proposition within other markets, right? And so once we get to that stage where we’ve got annual occurring revenue, that’s interesting to these larger players, then it’s a much more in-depth discussion relative to acquisition and how we could compliment existing portfolios within the big companies, but really it’s all about, you know, getting to profitable and getting this business stable enough. So it is an attractive acquisition and, and we’re able to, to negotiate a good price.

Antoine Walter:
So I think that, to that extent your, your business model with annual recurring revenue is helping you to have this stability, I guess.

Orianna Bretschger:
Yes, absolutely. Having a predictable revenue stream is critical. So not following the cap ex model is also helpful for that.

Antoine Walter:
There’s one aspect that they’re just slightly touched. One minutes ago with my queen of the kingdom aspect is that one of the bold statements there is on your website is that you have, you are a woman owned business. Is that an important message to you? I’m asking you, let me just tell you where I’m coming from with that question. I’m a son of feminist, I’m a father of two daughters, and I’m very, very, very mad at myself that we are episode 20 of the podcast. And you’re the third woman on the microphone, Switzerland. It’s, I’m really a minority and I’m ashamed of that. So that’s why it’s important to me to ask you that question and I stop talking and let you the microphone.

Orianna Bretschger:
Well, thank you for that question. Yes, it is absolutely important to us. So we are, we are three co-founders and two of the three of us are women. And two of the three of us are immigrants and the U S and the diversity of thought and idea, and disciplines in office cycle as a company is what has enabled us to get to the point where we are, and hopefully thrive beyond where we are now. And so we are most definitely minority in terms of gender composition within the industry. And, you know, we’re also from an investment perspective, too, right? If you look at the amount of venture capital, which is invested into early stage companies, right, and there’s decades of data supporting this, now only 2% of that funding goes to female founded companies, even though women and men found companies are pretty much equal rates, right? It’s 50, 50 founders across gender, and that’s not just in wastewater, right. I’m talking very broadly. And so, you know, that speaks volumes to some of the hurdles that we have to cross, but we are very proudly a, a women owned business and and women led business with the terrific gender diversity, you know, across the team. And I, I hope to strengthen that as we grow

Antoine Walter:
One of my previous guests, Fajer Mushtaq, she mentioned that it’s important to have some examples for women not to say that you have to actively push a woman, but rather lead by the example. And I think somehow you founding a company being in the sea level, in a company and in the water industry, which is a male industry, let’s, let’s face it. You can serve somehow, as an example, is something you would like to be seen as an example, or would you say that too? We, we win the day that we don’t notice anymore that they are women and men in that industry.

Orianna Bretschger:
I certainly hope I’m setting a positive example.

I think that mentorship is crucial and you know, all of my co-founders feel that same way we do. We actually do a lot of outreach within middle school and high school college. You know, we take on interns all the time and largely they’re women that come and work with us. And that’s not always intentional, right. As where we’re always seeking the best candidate as possible. And we ended up with a lot of ladies, which is great. I think it’s very important to recognize the fact that because we are as a gender, you know, in the minority, within this industry, that we recognize that, that we help each other, that we bring up, you know, as many new women and minorities into the industry as we possibly can. And there’s plenty of room at the right and that the goal is equality. And so it’s not a matter of let’s get there and stuff. It’s a matter of, you know, let’s achieve some equality and maintain that equality.

Antoine Walter:
Would you have some advice to give to the future people that would like to follow your path?

Orianna Bretschger:
Yeah. Well, don’t stop the tenacious. It’s hard. It’s difficult in water. It’s a very challenging industry. It’s, it’s conservative, it’s slow to adopt new technology, but it’s also extremely fun and filled with terrific people who are very passionate about what they do. And so, you know, I’m consistently learning something new every day and that’s thrilling, right? From a business perspective, of course, there’s an additional challenge, right? How do you take a technology into a commercially successful business? And that transition is a challenge and has a recovering academic, right? I’m still learning how to speak the language. And so, and so my advice to those who, who follow that path, whether it’s in water or, you know, transitioning out of, out of research and science and technology development into commercialization is keep an open mind. Listen, listen to everybody who has, who has come before you maybe not on exactly the same path, but who has experienced similar issues and, you know, learn from them. But also you’re, you’re gonna make mistakes. And I certainly have, and continue to make them. But as long as we learn from them and push forward, and the only way you fail is when you give up. Right? And so, so you gotta stick with it. If you, if you’re passionate about it, you love it, keep doing it. And eventually that becomes infectious than other people will join you in, in your mission.

Antoine Walter:
I love that statements you fail when you give up. That’s a really good one. I’m going to keep that one. Thanks a lot for that one. Thanks a lot for everything. But it’s particularly for that one to go to the deep dive is to switch to the rapid fire questions.

Rapid Fire Questions

So here, the rule is the following is that I tried to keep the question short and in exchange to that, it’s good. If you can, on your end, keep the answers short, but of course I’m not cutting the microphone. If you have something to express, feel free. Okay. My first question would be what is the most exciting project you’ve been working on?

Orianna Bretschger:
Ooh, most exciting project. Our first really big commercial rollout to a very large food and beverage producer, super excited. It’s deploying a January. I can’t wait to talk more about it when it’s up and running, but it’s awesome. You can follow me on LinkedIn to see some of the pictures of, of how this thing is constructing.

Antoine Walter:
You’re not allowed to tell who it is. I was wondering reading your, your interviews.

Orianna Bretschger:
Not yet,

Antoine Walter:
Not even like the color of [inaudible]

Orianna Bretschger:
One of the world’s largest food and beverage companies.

Antoine Walter:
Okay. So I think you’ve got everybody teased with that. So we have to follow you as definitely. What’s your favorite part of your current job?

Orianna Bretschger:
Always learning something new. That’s

Antoine Walter:
Sounds like an advice as well. I’m sorry. Are you playing the game? And I’m cheating by making

Orianna Bretschger:
That’s all right. That’s all right. I stick to the rules, man.

Antoine Walter:
What is the trend to watch out in the water industry?

Orianna Bretschger:
Distributed treatment? Not just because we do it, but you know, the, this opportunity to deploy on-site treatment and increased water reuse capacity, right? That’s really going to change the game and enable a lot of great things within the industry. And that requires sensors requires you know new approaches for water reuse that requires, you know, everything that multitude of different technologies under development today, but we’re, we’re excited to be a part of it.

Antoine Walter:
So is it the water reuse, which is the trend, or is it the decentralized aspect of it?

Orianna Bretschger:
Decentralized aspect of it? Because water reuse is happening, right? There’s large centralized reuse projects that have been popping up everywhere, but the ability to do that in a distributed and decentralized fashion is really exciting.

Antoine Walter:
Okay. What is the thing you care about the most when you’re working on new projects and what you care the least about

Orianna Bretschger:
Most as customer satisfaction? Are we, are we going to get the job done right. And have a happy customer thing? I care about the least. It’s always a difficult one. I know. Yeah. I gotta say my least favorite thing about being a CEO and having to roll out these projects is making sure we’ve got enough insurance selecting insurance.

Antoine Walter:
That’s a fair one. I guess Jeff sources to recommend to keep up with the water and wastewater market trends.

Orianna Bretschger:
Oh yeah. There’s a lot. Well, I mean, you know, you’re, you’re a part of this. We got the water Foundry team. There’s the folks that have been, you know, watching the trends and reporting the trends for quite awhile. I think at the BlueTech research, you’ve got TMA BlueTech that does ocean and water they’ve they’ve had some interesting blue economy reports coming out. Of course there’s the global water intelligence group. Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot out there. And then there’s a lot of folks that are, are really good at reporting out and active on social media, highlighting some exciting things and trends and putting out surveys. So yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s a lot out there. It’s hard for me to come up with names right now, but certainly many different options.

Antoine Walter:
And still, I’m going to try to make you come up with a name because from all these forms, do you have someone that you would recommend me to invite on that same microphone?

Orianna Bretschger:
Oh, well, I’m mostly engaged with startup founders like myself. One person that might be very cool for you to talk to who just completed a series B in her round and does some awesome stuff. Is Nina, who is the CEO at ketos, K E T O S. And she does sensor technology in a distributed way for monitoring water quality real time. And she’ll, she can tell you more about it, but they’ve been going gangbusters this year. Super exciting to watch them grow nor your water. Also very cool. Los Angeles based female founder. There’s a theme here. You might recognize.

Antoine Walter:
It’s good to see people applying their own bias. I mean, that, that’s important. Thanks a lot for those advice I will reach out to, to definitely. It sounds interesting. So you sold me to the ID. You mentioned LinkedIn as a good way to follow you. Your website, I guess, as well, might be a good place. Is there someone else where you will like to redirect people that would be interested in learning a bit more, what you’re doing?

Orianna Bretschger:
Sure. You can follow us on Twitter at Aqua cycle. You can follow me personally at H two Oriana. You can follow us on LinkedIn. We do most of our posts through LinkedIn. We do have a Facebook page because we have to, we don’t put a lot on it. You’ll see a lot of the same types of information across those different platforms. And our, and our website will have the latest and greatest news and announcements for sure.

Antoine Walter:
Sure. Arena. Now I’m jealous. My name also starts with the NOAA. That’s a good fat, that’s really a good pan.

Orianna Bretschger:
I can’t take credit for it. I have a friend of mine came up with when I, when I started on Twitter a few years ago, it’s like, okay, I’m totally taking that one,

Antoine Walter:
But that’s a good one. Well, Ariana, thanks a lot. You’ve been an awesome guest. I hope listeners will be as interested in what you said as I was. I mean, I learned a lot, so maybe that’s because I started being stupid in the field, but still along the loss. So thanks. Thanks. I hope to talk with you again in two years or five years when you are not in five years in two years, when you are cash positive and perfect. I think that’s something we have to celebrate on the podcast.

Orianna Bretschger:
I think so too. Well, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure and hope you have a wonderful evening.

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