iFLUX directly monitors the speed and direction of groundwater contamination spreading in time.
Soil contamination and polluted groundwater can result in poor drinking water quality and poses serious health risks. In Flanders, about 12,000 contaminated sites have been identified. With the more straightforward cases already tackled, this still leaves more than half of these sites untouched. In these contaminated sites, it is crucial to determine the risk of pollutant(s) spreading and the speed at which the contamination is spreading to an area at risk, such as a source of drinking water or a residential area. The higher the risk and speed of spreading, the higher the sanitation priority. Current pollutant measurement methods provide merely a snapshot of the underground situation at a certain time and a specific location, and use these data to simulate the risk of contamination spreading. This entails large uncertainties, which can jeopardize the remediation process and lead to an enormous waste of resources. Unlike these traditional methods, iFLUX directly monitors the speed and direction of groundwater contamination spreading in time. iFLUX sampling provides more certainty about which contaminants are present in the soil, how they move and at what speed. This allows iFLUX to provide reliable data and precisely determine the dispersion risks of the contamination.
If not because of our intervention, the pollutant-neutralizing injections would have missed 90% of the spreading contamination.
The foundation of the iFLUX technology originated from the doctoral research of Goedele Verreydt, co-founder and co-CEO of iFLUX, at the University of Antwerp and VITO. To turn a scientific discovery into a real-world solution, Goedele teamed up with Tim Op 't Eyndt, now iFLUX’s co-founder/CEO and at that time a VITO business developer who strongly believed in the technology’s potential. Since then, they have expanded their team and demonstrated the added value of iFLUX data in various remediation projects, both locally and abroad. Take the example of a certain contaminated site in Aarschot. Traditional contamination measurements were performed, and pollutant-neutralizing agents were about to be injected into the soil. To verify the dimensions of the contamination and the likely success of the planned injections, iFLUX was asked to perform additional measurements. As Goedele explains “It turned out that the original results had completely missed the ball. If not because of our intervention, the injections would have happened at the wrong location and would have missed 90% of the spreading contamination.”
Besides expansion of their international footprint, another area of focus is digitalization. Tim elaborates “Our current cartridges reside in the soil for several weeks and are then collected and analysed in a specialized lab, which means results are released after two or three months. As the market expressed interest in a real-time sensor, we started looking into expanding the technology into a digital application.” The digital sensor is already in use for several pilot studies and is even more versatile than the passive measuring method. It not only focuses on remediation, but has already proven to be useful for nature management and other broader groundwater issues. In one of the pilots, the sensor is used to assess the effectiveness of bioremediation of certain pollutants by trees (willows and poplars). But it has also been used in a nature reserve in Damme, where they have set up a sensor network to manage water levels in a smart and continuous way.
To entrepreneurs just starting out, Tim recommends to follow your gut instinct and to actively seek out guidance and advice. From other entrepreneurs, but also investors. “We were coming from an academic background and had to evolve into a commercially-viable company. The guidance from investors throughout all of this has been crucial. What was also important, is that Goedele and I have very complementary skills and continuously challenge each other in order to push the company forward.” Goedele adds “Qbic’s coaching was very important for us as first-time entrepreneurs.”
The world's freshwater savings account is drying up and we are now realizing that we are jeopardizing our future and need to act.
As for the future, iFLUX has big plans. Goedele passionately explains “We want to expand beyond our current groundwater niche into groundwater and surface water interactions, and even surface water itself, as this is all interwoven. It is our ambition to become a prominent player delivering reliable data and combining technological, groundwater and surface water expertise.” Tim adds, “Rivers and creeks only constitute a tiny fraction of the freshwater reserve - almost 95% of this reserve is situated underground. The world's freshwater savings account is drying up and we are now realizing that we are jeopardizing our future and need to act. With iFLUX’s expertise, we can help provide ecological and economical solutions. Whereas the question now often is ‘what does it cost us’, it should be ‘what is the benefit’. And that is where iFLUX can provide answers and where our future lies."
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