Discover SIM Labs, 1st place winners of the 2017 Challenge
What are harmful algae blooms (HABs)? How do we know if our water is safe? How do we know if we can expect a bloom? These are all important questions that the SIM Labs team is working to address.
HABs are when species of cyanobacteria and algae grow out of control in our water. These species can produce lethal toxins, which can cause damage to our liver and nervous system and can even be fatal in large dosages. Therefore, accurate measurement of algae and cyanobacteria concentrations are key factors in the implementation of successful water management practices such as drinking water production, source and recreation water monitoring, and water re-use practices.
To address this issue, the SIM Labs team is developing an imaging-driven artificial intelligence solution to automatically identify and enumerate different types of microalgae. This ability for active monitoring will allow for large amounts of data to be generated, which in turn will allow artificial intelligence to find behavioural trends in the data over a given time period. Therefore, having this information allows water treatment plants, governments and private organizations, as well as local communities to be proactive opposed to reactive on the onset of a bloom.
The SIM Labs team is made up of three founding members: Jason Deglint, Dr. Alexander Wong and Dr. Chao Jin. Jason Deglint is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo in Systems Design Engineering. Jason was first exposed to the water industry by Dr. Chao Jin in September of 2016 and then decided to then dedicate his full time research to tackling the issue of long turnaround times and high costs when identifying algae samples. With the help of Jin’s knowledge of the water treatment process and with the support of Wong’s artificial intelligence expertise, Deglint started researching how to build a dedicated imaging system to automatically identify different types of microalgae.
At around the same the team heard about the AquaHacking competition, and immediately decided to join the 5 month long hackathon. Throughout the competition the SIM Labs team gained a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the issues Lake Erie was facing. Seeing the devastation and impact of HABs motivated SIM Labs team to push with their research. At the end of the competition SIM Labs was honored by being awarded the first place prize. Since SIM Labs has won the AquaHacking competition they have been accepted into Velocity Garage as well as have spoken at the Water Innovation in Action sharing their experience and lessons learned.
Currently the SIM Labs team is working on finalizing their first prototype and plan to give this prototype to their early adopters as soon as possible. These early adopters include two water treatment plants, located in Niagara and Kingsville, as well as private organizations such as the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA) as well as the St. Lawrence River Institute. If you are interested in working with or collaborating with SIM Labs please reach out to Jason Deglint at firstname.lastname@example.org.