Arizona State University is making headlines yet again for its innovative, green technology programs. This time, Arbsource, a spin-out company from Arizona State University, is the winner of the Rocky Mountain Cleantech Open regional final for the Air, Water and Waste category.
What Is Arbsource?
Arbsource transitions wastewater treatment from an expensive liability into a valuable resource for food and beverage companies. The core of Arbsource’s technology is based on Anode Respiring Bacteria, which, in conjunction with Arbsource’s unique reactor design, removes organic pollutants such as sugars and starches and other type of organic pollutants in the wastewater without the need for as many inputs as are required for traditional processes.
Mark Sholin, founder and CEO, explains Arbsource’s technology for treating the wastewater for food and beverage companies, taking that costly energy liability and transforming it into a valuable resource. Depending on the use that this water is destined for, it can be reclaimed to be used directly back into our customers’ processes, or it can be treated directly on site for release into the sewer system.
“We are talking about breweries, confectioners, potato chip makers … a lot of these guys spend up to six figures per year just treating their wastewater,” Sholin says. “With our ARB cell biotechnology, we can offer comparable speed and quality for up to half the cost, and that savings is realized through using a lot less energy, producing less solid sludge by-product and also reducing maintenance.”
Charlie Lewis, Vice President of Venture Development at Arizona Technology Enterprises, has assisted Arbsource’s Sholin and Lon Huber, CFO, with the commercialization process of this new technology and licensing the technology back to the young entrepreneurs. This process is necessary as the technology was developed through a collaborative student and faculty partnership at Arizona State University.
Lewis shares the green technology Arbsource developed that makes it different from other industrial wastewater treatment, such as cutting costs and producing hydrogen gas rather than methane.
“Companies have water that is imported from another facility that needs to be treated,” Lewis says. “Through the technology of Arbsource, they are able to substantially cover more reducing the costs. And from an output standpoint, [the process] produces hydrogen gas, which is a good product rather than those that are not environmentally friendly like methane.”
Companies have already expressed interest in getting on board with this technology, some right here in Arizona. Sholin wishes not to release names due to confidentiality reasons, but he mentions dairy facilities, breweries and a few candy makers.
“There’s a number of local beverage processing companies, some high profile names and others in the Phoenix area that have expressed early interest in our technology,” Sholin says. “We are still pretty early in the technical development where we are sourcing materials for, what we like to call, our pre-pilot unit.”
Arbsource In The Cleantech Open Regional Competition
The Cleantech Open is a leader in developing clean technology startup entrepreneurs that are currently addressing these aims to find, fund and foster incredible ideas that address energy, environmental and economic challenges. Since the inception of the Cleantech Open in 2006, 400 teams have been privileged to Cleantech Open’s unique, hands-on workforce development, nurturing and funding programs.
Each regional final team won a “Startup in a Box” prize package that included cash and in-kind services worth up to $20,000.
The Cleantech Open has given the Arbsource team the opportunity to connect with potential investors, strategic partners and customers during this competition, in addition to receiving media exposure. This has even led to a venture capitalist, based out of Colorado, that wants to mentor the Arbsource team throughout the rest of the competition and beyond.
“Our team is quite young,” Sholin says. “Lon and myself are steering the ship if you will. He’s 25, and I’m 23. The teams we are competing against … most of them are double our age and they’ve been at this for years.
“Some of these guys are serial entrepreneurs who have a mature product in place and even have the sales to back it up. Call it maybe distorted, but when they announced our names, we were really blown away by it, and I think it had to do with the market opportunity and the fact that we have a young team, and we have the energy to devote to this. Also, that we have a very knowledgeable advisory board and the fact that we are very closely tied with Arizona State University.”
Arbsource is heading to the finals on November 15 and 16 in San Jose, Calif. to compete against the finalists from all six regions.