When it comes to the collection and analysis of water data, it's difficult not to drown in the details. Nobody understands this better than Vancouver-based Aquatic Informatics, a world leader in water data management.
Company founder Ed Quilty started out in the mid-1990s installing and managing water monitoring stations for BC Environment, collecting and analyzing continuous water data on its behalf. By the early 2000s, he saw that the market was changing: a rapidly growing environmental monitoring industry required faster, more accurate data, but at the time there was no system in place to efficiently process and analyze the flood of data coming in from water collection. Recognizing a pressing need, Aquatic Informatics was founded in 2003, and soon turned to the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) for assistance.
Finding an answer through new technology
Aquatic Informatics began working with NRC-IRAP in 2005 on a project to identify gaps in the water informatics market. The company developed an algorithm that became the key to their unique new technology – the AQUARIUS software system – which could analyze water data, detect problems, and correct them. NRC-IRAP also helped the company secure additional funding from other partners.
In 2006, Aquatic Informatics began a second project with NRC-IRAP to further refine its AQUARIUS system and extend its capabilities to better suit the needs of larger companies and organizations. By re-examining the foundations of its system, Aquatic Informatics was able to enhance the features of its software and subsequently attract larger clients, such as the US Geological Survey and Environment Canada, achieving nearly $10 million in sales in 2015.
According to the company, one of the biggest contributions from NRC-IRAP was the professional advisory services provided by its Industrial Technology Advisors (ITAs), who supported the company along its path to success. All the ITAs we've had have been great – very flexible, knowledgeable, and easy to talk to, says Quilty, now CEO. They allowed us to be agile in our process, and each of them had a good understanding of our business.
One of the NRC-IRAP ITAs put together a pilot program for the company to develop a business model for international growth. This project helped them establish a presence in the previously untouched Australian market, which led to the eventual opening of an office in Australia and a sales increase of $2 million.
Aquatic Informatics was also able to work with NRC-IRAP on several youth projects in which NRC-IRAP assisted them in the hiring of recent graduates, three of whom are still working for the company.
"All the ITAs we've had have been great – very flexible, knowledgeable, and easy to talk to. They allowed us to be agile in our process, and each of them had a good understanding of our business."
A growing company – a deluge of success
Aquatic Informatics has seen considerable growth over the past several years, and in 2015 was ranked by Deloitte as one of Canada's Top 50 fastest growing technology companies. The company started with less than 10 workers and now has 80 employees, with customers in 50 countries and an impressive 80% international clientele, says Quilty, and he attributes part of that success to support from NRC-IRAP.
By most indications poised for continued high growth, the company is adding new software solutions that will allow them to expand into different industries and new global markets, he added.