Canadian company, SciCorp, wins first prize for innovative and transformative wastewater technology
WT Interview With Derk Maat, SciCorp
May 20, 2022
WT: I have with me on the phone, Derk Maat from a company called SciCorp here in Canada, thanks for being here. You won an award; can you tell us what the award is for and why you won it?
Derk Maat: The award is for our technology that is innovative and transformative in the wastewater industry.
The Canadian government in combination with UK wastewater utility corps set up a “dragon’s den” event where companies would compete in presenting their technology. Initially, approximately a hundred companies from Canada applied. That was reduced to six; we were one of the six.
Then we were on-line and had eight minutes to present our technology and its benefits, and how it solves some of the challenges in the wastewater industry, followed by eight minutes of questioning. After the review by eight judges, we were selected as the winner of the competition.
(The award) gave us a lot of credibility in the marketplace, both in Canada and internationally, in terms of our new innovative technology that we have proven in many applications. We are now expanding its use in many different countries.
WT: That’s fantastic, we are big fans of Canadian innovation here at WaterToday. What does your product do that makes it so important?
Maat: The challenges in the wastewater industry are related to odour, related to energy cost, capacity, and performance of wastewater facilities.
What our technology consists of is a liquid, plant-based natural product that stimulates the engine of every wastewater plant, which is, bacteria.
Most plants don’t have the money to expand and upgrade their plants.
By stimulating the bacteria to work faster and quicker, and use less energy, then produce less waste, we achieve most of the challenges faced by wastewater plants in improving the performance, producing a better effluent quality, eliminating odour complaints, reducing energy cost and therefore (reducing) the C02 emissions and carbon footprint.
You put all that together and it’s a win-win for every wastewater plant that starts using our product.
It can be applied in a wide range of applications, going from pit toilets to the most sophisticated wastewater plant that you can imagine.
I have over fifty years of experience in the wastewater industry in Canada and internationally, having designed and constructed many kinds of wastewater technologies. We have in our company, an in-house capability to assess any wastewater plant, determine how this liquid micronutrient can be used, and how the performance of a (wastewater) plant can be optimized.
One litre of our product will transform one million litres of wastewater.
WT: Sounds impressive. You talk about C02 reduction, energy reduction, can you speak to both those points?
Maat: The energy reduction comes in the form that the bacteria need less oxygen to do their work.
Electricity for wastewater treatment is produced, in many cases, in power plants based on fossil fuels, natural gas, coal, oil etc. We reduce the electrical power demand of the wastewater treatment plant.
Secondly, the waste sludge produced by the wastewater plant needs a lot of chemicals to dewater it, and then it is trucked to remote landfills for disposal.
We reduce the amount of sludge produced by twenty to thirty percent, so that means a twenty to thirty percent reduction in energy use.
When we do the C02 equivalent, we reduce the carbon footprint of a wastewater treatment facility by up to 25%, which is huge and significant.
WT: What is the reaction of the marketplace, in other words, the wastewater operators? Are they skeptical? How does moving into the market work for you?
Maat: We have spent the last ten years developing an engineered approach to the use of our technology.
You are exactly right, the traditional wastewater treatment plant manager or operator will say, no product has ever done (the benefits claimed by SciCorp technology) before. We have used bacterial formulations, we have used enzymes, we have used other chemicals and nothing, and none of these other products has approached the benefits of your product. So, when we approach a wastewater treatment plant manager, the first thing they ask is, “Will it kill the reactions in my plant? It’s a biological system.” My response today is no, it will not.
We have never seen any plant have negative effects. In every case, once we do the process evaluation of the plant, and we nail the numbers, we can guarantee that our product will eliminate the odour, and we can start to demonstrate that the other benefits will also be realized.
We enter three-month trial demonstration projects at a reduced cost. We are getting more and more acceptance in the marketplace, not just in municipal plants, but also industries: pulp and paper, agriculture, food processing, cheese plants, slaughterhouses, etc.
We are seeing an expanding market for our company. We have grown three hundred percent in revenue and reach. We are now in twenty-five countries around the world, with a high level of acceptance in South America and the United States. We are starting to get acceptance in Canada as well. Traditionally, it is very difficult to bring in new technology into the marketplace in Canada, especially in the environmental sector.
Even in lagoon systems and septic tanks in people’s homes, the product will break down the accumulated solids and greases, and restore the operation back to the level where it was first constructed. In lagoons, it works to take away the smell, automatically degrade the accumulated solids in the bottom of the lagoon and reduce the need for dredging.
In Africa, we are using it in latrines. Where we increase the degradation rate, we take away the smell. The smell attracts the flies, maggots and cockroaches, (which) are gone in a week. A month later, the waste level in the latrine has shrunk by a metre while it’s still being used.
We are making it affordable at the village level, to local distribution outlets in one or two African countries, and that market is growing for us as well.
WT: I know several provinces that regulate what goes in the septic tanks. Are there regulations holding you back in the different provinces, specifically in Canada? What is the cost of your process?
Maat: There is no regulation that prevents anyone from using our product in a septic tank in Canada because it is a plant-based product, it’s not a chemical. You can touch it, taste it, and feel it with no adverse effects. We actually have one or two distributors in Canada that have client bases of five to ten thousand users. It is starting to be sold more broadly.
The cost of the product for a consumer, a homeowner is $80 a year, less than every two-year pump-out cost. The pump-out cost does not improve your drain field, whereas this product will keep your septic tank free of accumulating solids, but also your drain field will be rehabilitated, and drains will improve to the point where the efficiency is close to what it was when it was first installed.
WT: Walk me through the timeline, I’m a homeowner, I hear about this product, I want my system to work for many years. How much time will it put on my septic system, and how long until the drainage field works better?
Maat: The addition rate is one bottle down your toilet once a month, that’s all it takes, pour it down once a month. It starts to break down all solids in the septic tank within thirty to sixty days and rehabilitates your drain field in sixty to ninety days. It will restore to the original capacity unless it is clogged by tree roots, that is the only (limiting) factor. We have seen people with sewage in their lawns, and after they started using the product the sewage disappears in about a month, month and a half, and the septic system life is extended for many more years.
Ski chalets typically have a lot of folks in the chalet, a client in Collingwood was having perennial pump-out problems, and sewage in the lawn. Once they started using the product, all the problems disappeared.
WT: What kind of reward did you get for earning this first-place finish? Going forward, how do you see the future for this type of product?
Maat: The reward we got was credibility in the marketplace. Support by the Canadian government, and acceptance by major wastewater utilities in the UK, those two facts give us credibility around the world.
The Canadian government lists our award with all their trade commissioners in over 165 countries. The trade commissioners are actively looking for clients to use environmentally sustainable Canadian technology. We qualify with respect to those criteria very well.
We have trade commissioners finding us clients in Thailand, Argentina, the Middle East, Peru, and Mexico, so we are very happy with this award. It’s given us a leg-up in the marketplace, to establish an even higher level of credibility than we have right now.
A paper mill is using our product in Chile; they are buying two million dollars worth of product from us annually. They are saving dollars in plant operation, and they have been able to increase the capacity of their paper-making process because the wastewater plant now has more capacity to treat the wastewater from paper-making operations.
We believe we can change the process for sanitation here and around the world.