In the Spotlight: AquaMost

By Cristine Carlton
November 25, 2013

While PitchBook TV was “On the Scene in Wisconsin,” at the invitation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, we visited the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. It was here where we attended a roundtable meeting on water technology, which included Dean Amhaus, the president & CEO of The Water Council; David E.J. Garman, the founding dean of the School of Freshwater Sciences University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; as well as a number of CEOs and founders of Wisconsin-based startups focused in the water technology space.

Following the roundtable, Todd Asmuth, CEO of AquaMost, shared the story behind his Madison-based company for our “In the Spotlight” video feature above. COO & CFO Mark Henrickson provided additional details below:

Company Description

AquaMost designs and manufactures water treatment systems for the oil and gas industry. Our patented PECO system (photo-electrocatalytic oxidation), developed at the University of Wisconsin, funded by local Wisconsin angel groups, supported by federal SBIR grants and driven by entrepreneurs, is working to introduce its chemical-free method to solve the water problems created by the explosive growth of hydraulic fracturing.

The company’s PECO technology combines catalyst plates, UV light, and electricity to destroy a wide variety of contaminants and pathogens in water. These contaminants include bacteria commonly found in flowback and produced water from oil and gas wells, as well as volatile organic compounds and polymers. Based on laboratory and field-testing, the company believes it has a sustainable competitive advantage in providing excellent remediation results at competitive prices with an environmentally friendly solution for multiple specific market applications.

Number of Employees

12

What is AquaMost’s flagship product and where is it in the development process?

AquaMost’s flagship product is the SX Reactor. It was built specifically for the oil and gas industry to kill bacteria for hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery. Prototype units have been validated on various customer sites over the past six months. Beta units are currently for sale as we finalize the design and ramp up for commercialization in 1Q 2014.

AquaMost's patented SX Reactor Platform is designed specifically for the oil and gas industry.

AquaMost’s patented SX Reactor Platform

What is the story behind AquaMost’s founding?

The company’s chief scientific officer, Terence Barry, learned about PECO technology when he and University of Wisconsin professor Marc Anderson, the original inventor of PECO, met over a few beers at the university’s Union Terrace on the shores of Lake Mendota. Dr. Barry was then the director of the University of Wisconsin Aquaculture Program and decided to run a few experiments to see if PECO could be used to purify aquarium water. The results were unexpected and scientifically remarkable, and Dr. Barry and Dr. Anderson immediately decided to form a company to develop and market PECO products for the aquarium and aquaculture industries. Along the way, as larger and better PECO reactors were build and tested, it became clear that there were much larger and more lucrative markets for PECO technology. The company evolved to its present status as a provider of water purification solutions for the environmental remediation and oil and gas industries.

Can you describe any recent milestones or goals that AquaMost has accomplished?

The company has achieved many milestones since it’s inception in 2006.

  • Recipient of $1 million NIH SBIR Phase II grant
  • Raised $6 million in funding
  • Hired a well-qualified leadership team
  • Have been chosen to speak at many different industry conferences
  • Successfully designed, built, and validated our SX reactor for the Oil and Gas industry
  • Awarded two patents on our technology and have filed 21 additional provisional patents

What are future milestones or goals for AquaMost?

  • Raise $5 million VC funding round in 1Q 2014
  • Be profitable by 2015
  • Be the leader for bacteria treatment in the oil and gas industry
  • Expand into other applications: drinking water, frac-on-the fly, cooling towers, etc.

How has Wisconsin provided you with the necessary resources for growing your business?

Wisconsin has been instrumental from day one in providing the company with tools to grow our business. The technology was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin and the initial patents are licensed to the company through the University. We continue to have strong ties with the university as it continues to support our growth. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has provided the company with debt financing, has provided a means for us to reach global markets through international trade visits and grants to attend international trade conferences, has provided tax incentives to our investors, and introduces us to organizations like PitchBook.

Click here to see more “On the Scene in Wisconsin” footage.

Full Video Transcript:

Hello. My name is Todd Asmuth. I’m the CEO of AquaMost. AquaMost is a water purification company based in Madison, Wisconsin. We are focused in helping oil and gas companies reuse or recycle their water with less chemicals. Our advanced oxidation technology will cause a chemical reaction in the water, that will purify the water, killing bacteria, and allowing companies to either dispose of or recycle water with fewer chemicals while saving money. The company came out of University of Wisconsin Madison. It is in early commercialization stage. We are currently deploying our initial production devices. We’ve had many successful pilots with both large energy and production companies, and very small disposal operators. Our business is focused in Colorado and Texas for oil and gas producers and we’re looking to expand and take additional money from either strategic or financial investors, to expand into more applications and more locations within oil and gas.

A great part of having an entrepreneurial water company in Wisconsin is the support that we’ve gotten from the Milwaukee Water Council. About two weeks ago, The Water Council brought in a buying group from Asia that heard about all the technology and companies here. We had a great opportunity to pitch and are currently starting to work with one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, that are looking to use our technology to help solve their water and energy problems in China. Between overall The Water Council making introductions to strategics, and all the funding we’ve had from local angel networks and from the tax credits put together by the state, this has been a great place to build a water technology company.

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