Business with solutions inspired by nature

Mother Nature always finds a way to heal herself but nowadays she needs a little help, and that help is coming from iWater, a business dedicated to restoring the quality of natural resources.

By Lisa Witepski

Mother Nature always finds a way to heal herself but nowadays she needs a little help, and that help is coming from iWater, a business dedicated to restoring the quality of natural resources. 

 

Pollution and the continued degradation of the environment needs urgent interventions. Initially iWater focused on water treatments but now its scope includes soil treatments and improving different aspects of the environment.

 

“We believe there is significant possibility to turn waste into something useful,” said Professor Esta van Heerden, CEO and lead environmental scientist at iWater. 

 

She genuinely cares about nature, and she is also fascinated by the idea of biomimicry. “Which is, the act of studying nature, then mimicking the processes that allows nature to restore itself – then packaging these into products or services,” she explained. 

 

Products can be created to harness alien invasive species, to clean up soil, or use microbes to prevent chemicals leaching out of slimes dams.  

 

The Professor has researched the possibilities presented by biomimicry and bioremediation since 2012, but it was only in 2017 that she put her thinking into practice by establishing iWater.

 

As a professor in Biochemistry, she thought at length about the fact that universities and funding agencies invest significantly in research and development and should ideally be able to reach the point where they could apply their learnings in small businesses. This would provide students with a platform to exercise the passions during their studies.  

 

The problem, though, is that while all academics may have the know-how and access to technology to bring such projects to light, they often aren’t geared towards using this technology in a commercial manner.

 

As she puts it, “We write so many proposals and have great ideas, but our ideas never go to market because we need champions to drive success,” she said. 

 

iWater is also set up as “a playground for students”. Leveraging from the tremendous pool of skills offered by the graduates who manage all projects, the company brings this knowledge to market with the aid of technology.  

 

A growing number her clients are interested in the work done by her team.  “Our goal is to reach a point where we are able to work with like-minded people, making smart decisions for smart clients,” she said.  

 

She acknowledged that reaching this point will take time. The challenge is that it doesn’t matter how well one focuses on business fundamentals if cash flow is compromised. 

 

This is always a big problem for start-ups, as any work requires working capital before making a profit. Esta’s method to addressing obstacles is rooted in her determination to never give up. 

 

In the meantime, Esta is appreciating growth opportunities that have been created by iWater; as a scientist she is able to enrich her own knowledge and her team is growing and developing.

 

This circular business is helping restore the environment a making the world a better place.

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