Solution Series : OZERO

By Laurence Basso July 21, 2020

On June 25th, the finalists of the BC 2020 AquaHacking Challenge were announced. In first place: Team OZERO, thanks to their innovation to fight the spread of invasive mussels.

To learn more about the solution, we spoke with, Olivier Harpin, Co-Founder and Manager of R&D for Ozero. Olivier is one of the six University of Sherbrooke engineers working on this solution.

The issue

Did you know that the zebra mussel is a species from Europe and Asia? It was first detected in Canada in 1986 in Lake Erie. Since then, it has spread to lakes across much of the country. These invasive mussels, Oliver tells us, cause two types of problems:

  1. Economic impact: Mussels lay around 1 million eggs each summer, which easily end up in sewer pipes and turbines which block the water pipes. This causes major infrastructure problems or water main breakages and is extremely costly to municipalities.
  2. Environmental impact: Mussels eat plankton, depriving other species of this important food source. As well, these mollusks filter the water, which creates yet another problem to local eco-systems.  When the water is clearer it is more susceptible to warming from the sun which favors excessive algae growth.

OZERO AQUAHACKING SOLUTION COLOMBIE BRITANNIQUE

Credit: Okanagan Basin Water Board, PJ Bruno

It is important to address the issue of invasive mussels because they spread quickly throughout watersheds. The main way this spread happens is the water in and on boats, that travel from lake to lake. Mussels adhere to their hulls and are found in their ballast water [1]. Every time a contaminated boat travels to a new lake, the risk of contamination is high. The zebra mussel has recently been noticed in the waters surrounding Sherbrooke, Quebec. The zebra mussel issue is well known in Quebec. In lakes in BC, a similar issue persists with quagga mussels. Preventing the spread of these invasive species is critical to the health of watersheds across Canada.

OZERO, an innovative solution

Water pockets in the hulls of boats – or ballasts – carry these invasive pests. Sport boats such as wake boats, typically pump and discharge water from the lake into their ballasts.  Unless the ballasts are cleaned, species migrate from lake to lake through the ballast water. To counter the spread, OZERO has created an innovative product to disinfect the interior and exterior of boats before they enter a lake.

How?

Ozero has developed a complementary solution to the already existing washing stations! In addition to cleaning the exterior of boats, they can also effectively clean the boat’s onboard water system.

The exterior is typically cleaned with a hot water pressure wash.  For the internal cleaning, water is brought to the ballasts via two exterior water tanks. Pumps are connected to these tanks to bring water to the hull of the boat.  From there the boat’s own pumping system connects with the external pumps of the OZERO tanks, and sucks the water into the ballast, enabling a full decontamination of all internal water infrastructure onboard.  To be effective, this process must be applied every time the boat is re-launched.

A new solution

The solution differs from others on the market due mostly to how quickly the cleaning process takes. OZERO’s innovation allows ballasts to be decontaminated efficiently in just 15 minutes. In most cases where pre-launch cleaning is done, the process can take up to 90 minutes. This delay is a big factor in the boater’s reluctance to clean their ballasts. Reducing the cleaning time will help tremendously to encourage responsible behavior.

OZERO, on tour this summer

These young entrepreneurs will be on tour this summer to demonstrate their solution to several municipalities.

‘This summer, we will be visiting ten cities s in Quebec, including Mégantic, St-Aubert, Abitibi, Sherbrooke, Cowansville, Magog, and Lac Taureau,  to demonstrate the efficiency of our innovation. We hope to bring our solution to the market by next summer,’ says Oliver.

The AquaHacking experience

‘One of the best AquaHacking moments was obviously when we found out we were winners! But, also the whole experience in general. The level of organization of the AquaHacking team really made an impression on us.  They are so focused on the success of the participants – they really took our experience and success to heart and we felt it! We have been in many competitions and we never experienced this level of care and attention Thank you to Carolina Restrepo, Anne-Pascale Richardson, and Melissa Dick for their responsiveness! They really met all our needs! Great job!’

OZERO’s eco-tip

‘Just being aware that there are issues related to freshwater quality is the first step towards change. Very often, I ask myself what I might be doing that is causing harm and then I adjust my behavior accordingly.’

Last words?

‘A big thank you to the entire AquaHacking team! Pivoting so quickly to the context of COVID and delivering a super quality online event … what a challenge! Thank you so much!’

To learn more visit OZERO’s website, watch their pitch here & check out our press release.

[1]Water bags that are filled in sports boats