Leveraging Cleantech for Cleaner Water

- Victoria, British Columbia

Devesh Bharadwaj, Chief Executive Officer, Pani

Based in Victoria, British Columbia, Pani began as a start-up in the field of desalination, energy storage and energy generation. After a thorough market discovery process, Pani pivoted to focus on operations intelligence for treatment plants. The company created software using advanced computational technologies to provide real-time feedback of water treatment and plant operations. Pani's cloud-based AI platform has resulted in improved energy efficiencies for industry and a reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions into our atmosphere, making Pani a key part of the charge for clean water access around the world.

A long standing issue in our ability to generate clean water is that the process of desalination requires a substantial amount of energy and produces GHG emissions. In his quest to address this problem, Pani's CEO and Founder, Devesh Bharadwaj, began conducting R&D specifically on water membrane technologies.

In 2017, Pani reached out to the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) for support and guidance to help develop their innovation. NRC IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA), Hong Yu, met Devesh at the University of Victoria to assess his prototype. At the time, the young firm was struggling to develop and commercialize its hardware-based membrane technology. Pani had no full time employees nor sales for their hardware product. Hong assessed the prototype and worked with Devesh to review the core technology. She also pulled in the expertise of colleagues from NRC IRAP's Clean Technology Sector Team to further evaluate market opportunities for Pani's technology. Based on a technology and market assessment, Hong recommended that the firm scale down and pivot to a software product. She was confident that the firm's existing technology and extensive knowledge of the water treatment process could be adapted to produce a feasible and more affordable industry solution.

Pani took this advice onboard and pivoted to a software as a service (SaaS) product. The goal then became to develop a software that could integrate with existing industrial equipment, with the ability to decipher how to optimize water use and treatment in plant operations. Pani doubled-down on their efforts to develop a solution that would not only reduce the high energy consumption typically needed for water desalination, but would also reduce the carbon footprint. With NRC IRAP's support, Pani successfully developed their Operations AI platform which optimized reverse osmosis operations using algorithm-based models and machine learning.

Since 2017, NRC IRAP has supported a total of 6 research and development (R&D) projects with Pani. Two projects were part of NRC IRAP's youth employment program, which enabled Pani to hire cleantech engineering graduate students to help enhance the firm's in-house technical capability. In 2018, NRC IRAP provided support for a technical development project that helped advance the R&D for their AI technology for desalination plants. NRC IRAP also supported the firm to help refine their technology, which resulted in the firm acquiring additional investments through venture capital funding. In 2019 and 2020, NRC IRAP also supported 2 pilot projects with foreign markets in the United States and India. These opportunities allowed Pani to partner with water treatment facilities in these countries to improve their machine learning software and co-develop solutions in water treatment for global application.

Today, Pani has grown to a team of about 40 staff and is a key player in the global water sector. The firm has received numerous awards for their ability to address clean water solutions and climate change simultaneously. Pani was selected as one of The Top 100 Most Impactful Cleantech Companies in the 2022 Global Cleantech 100 report, received The Best Go To Market Strategy Award at BlueTech Forum 2022 and was among the Top 5 Water Most Disruptive Technologies at the Global Water Summit in Paris, France. The firm's accomplishments and global recognition have gained the interest of venture capital firms and have placed Pani at the forefront of the industry to lead pilot projects with other global water multinationals around the world. NRC IRAP continues to provide support and advisory services to Pani for their most recent project: the development of tiered SaaS products that provide simulations and recommendations to further optimize plant operations and reduce associated GHG emissions.

"Our NRC IRAP industrial technology advisor provided us with guidance in business, IP and management strategies. We truly appreciate NRC IRAP support throughout our development and as we grow and implement our technologies worldwide."

Devesh Bharadwaj, CEO, Pani

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