Each day our Knowledge Management Team screens, filters and categorizes the various news feeds we subscribe to and summarises key elements into a Weekly Knowledge Management Digest. Our team highlights what they found most interesting or impactful that week, why, and how we can use it in our research work. We are happy to share these weekly updates with you.

Here are some of this week’s most significant developments:

Finnish company iFarm to deliver vertical farming solutions to Qatar

What happened? Finnish Ag Tech company iFarm has signed up with Qatar-based Sadarah Partners to deliver vertical farming solutions through a multi-year partnership. iFarm claims to use 95% less water than conventional farming with its “next generation” vertical farming concept, while researchers at Cornell have been using nanoscale sensors and fiber optics to measure water status just inside a leaf’s surface, where water in plants is most actively managed. It is thought this could open the door to breeding more drought-resistant crops as well as monitoring water status in plants in real time.

Why do we find this interesting? Our Research Editor Rhys Owen says,“We hear about digital water all the time, but what about the next logical step – the digitalisation of agriculture? The Brian Aldiss short story All the World’s Tears imagines a future in which every bee is tracked and monitored to increase the efficiency of food production down the last grain of pollen. We may be a long way still from that, but a clutch of stories this week illustrates how “Ag-Tech” is pursuing hyper-optimisation of water efficiency via smart sensor technologies.”

Rhys continues, “From under the soil to the inside the bark of fruit trees, more and more start-ups and research programmes are embedding remote sensors within and around plants to measure moisture ever-more accurately, in order to use just the right amount of water and no more – and the investment money is starting to follow. With this kind of precision and interest from investors, it’s no wonder the amount of water coming into our homes is also coming under the spotlight.”

Our TAG expert Wade Miller comments, “I really like the concept of bringing digitalization to agriculture. If the digitalization of water could break the age-old link of ‘more production, more water required,’ this would facilitate dramatic efficiency in the production of food crops while greatly reducing the demand for water. This would benefit growers all over the globe, but especially those in water-stressed areas that are prone to droughts such as California.”

Canadian utility Halifax Water plans to spend $1.1M on cybersecurity

What happened? Canadian water utility Halifax Water, serving more than 300,000 people, announced that it will spend $1.1M on cybersecurity, particularly on an information technology disaster recovery plan.

Why do we find it interesting? Our Analyst Conrad Hopp notes, “While gaps in Halifax Water’s IT infrastructure have been known internally since 2017, the impetus to provide funding has come from recent ransomware attacks on JBS and Colonial. The cyber-attack on Israeli water supplies in mid-2020 which threatened to alter chlorine levels, points to how threatening potential breaches can be. Is the water sector ready for the growing ransomware market? I cannot help but wonder what security gaps audits would find at other major utilities.”

House builders in Arizona face struggle to maintain water supply for growing suburbs

What happened? Arizona’s suburbs have been seeing increasing growth. While house developers are required to provide proof of a 100-year water supply, the water sources used are becoming more and more uncertain.

Why do we find it interesting? Our Analyst Conrad Hopp says, “Drought is not uncommon to local Arizonians. Recycled water currently accounts for 5% of the State’s water supply, and developers in most urban areas must provide proof of 100-year water supply prior to building on new land. To get around this requirement, developers in the suburbs have been able to strike deals with the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD), which replenishes what these suburbs withdraw by purchasing excess water from CAP and or lease water from tribes. As populations in the suburbs grow rapidly and supplies dwindle, the CAGRD will struggle to meet its contractual obligations.”

Conrad adds, “To me, these suburbs are the perfect playground for radically decentralized infrastructure. Community level treatment solutions could be financed by the CAGRD, which in turn could use the treated water to meet its replenishment obligations by injecting water to the local aquifer, or by recycling it back for use within the community. In a region of the world where there is abundant solar, it is possible to imagine this process being entirely energy neutral—even energy positive.”

Core & Main announces IPO

What happened? Core & Main filed a registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company – a distributor of water, wastewater, stormwater, and fire protection products and services – intends to IPO shares of common stock.

Why do we find it interesting? Our TAG expert Jim Hotchkies comments, “Out of all current IPOs, the one that most intrigues me, is the Core & Main IPO and I think that this is a company to watch. While not a high-profile technology venture, it is a company with a product line that you cannot do without on a water or wastewater project. In a few short years, they have built a solid business with essential core products and widespread distribution. By acquiring existing businesses, they not only expand their product offerings within their primary business lines but also add committed teams around the country and expand the full range of offerings to each unit.”

Other water industry news that has caught our attention

Pennon acquires Bristol Water for £814M
Pennon, owner of UK utility South West Water, acquired Bristol Water for £814M ($1.15bn). Bristol Water serves 1.2 million people and has £389M ($551M) in debts bringing the equity value to £425M ($602M).

Grundfos and AI company Baseform sign strategic partnership
Global pump manufacturer Grundfos and AI technology provider Baseform signed a strategic partnership.

Rackspace Technology provides Innovyze with IoT and cloud capabilities for digital twin offerings
Rackspace Technology, an IT solutions company, has provided IoT and Cloud Native Development capabilities to Innovyze, a software provider for the water industry. This will allow Innovyze to provide dynamic digital twin to its customers.

For more information or insights on these stories contact info@bluetechresearch.com