Two years ago, when WaterTAP last profiled Aclarus Ozone Water Systems, the company was involved in a federally funded project for wastewater treatment in Indigenous communities. This work was a part of the Peterborough, Ontario company’s overall initiative to surpass the residential market and gain more traction in commercial and industrial sales.
At the time, the Peterborough, Ontario company had donated its innovative ozone system to the three-year study about the viability of using ozone treatment systems in sewage lagoons to improve wastewater treatment, specifically for two Indigenous communities in Ontario. As a result of this project, there has been a demonstrated decrease in emerging contaminants of concern as well as improved wetland health.
From 2016 to 2018, Aclarus installed its technology at a wastewater treatment plant in Cobourg, Ontario, reaching a new milestone. This installation marked the first time in Canada that such a facility had implemented an ozone injection treatment system at this scale for wastewater. Cobourg was concerned about the carcinogenic by-product formation from chlorination and discharge of chemicals into the environment such as trihalomethanes as well as the growing issue of pharmaceuticals in wastewater, both of which are solved with ozone.
According to Adam Doran, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, the upgrade from chlorine resulted in indisputable improvements. The annual cost of running the Aclarus system was shown to be 8% less expensive than the previous chlorination method. By migrating to ozone, the plant was not only able to avoid using chemicals altogether, it was also able to treat difficult-to-remove contaminants of concern such as pesticides, drugs, and hormones.
Furthermore, Aclarus was able to achieve 10 times less than the prescribed disinfection compliance requirements, remove 80% of effluent colour, and generate a 178% increase in the dissolved oxygen content of the wastewater, which is a positive attribute for the salmon and trout native to the downstream creek.
Perhaps equally as impressive was the infrastructure savings. At the size of a traditional car garage, the Aclarus system could fit into existing space at the plant; otherwise, retrofitting the plant to accommodate other solutions could cost millions of dollars.
Today, Doran — along with his co-founder and cousin Michael Doran, VP Operations — continues to work with Indigenous communities, as well as industry and municipal wastewater facilities. “We have the knowledge, experience and team to design, build and implement ozone systems solutions to multiple markets, and our track record proves that,” he says. “When it’s done correctly, ozone treatment is one of the safest, most affordable and effective solutions on the market that does not require the use of chemicals.”
Targeting growth beyond residential markets
With these projects and others, Aclarus has expanded its client base. Since its founding in 2012, until recently, the company’s main offering was standard residential systems. Now, the company’s sales to commercial and industrial customers have overtaken its sales this market.
“We’re experts in designing, building, and applying our minimalist, NSF-61 certified system,” Doran says. “We have done plenty of advocacy work in order to educate people about this technology. This work has helped us branch out organically into a number of markets.”
Aclarus now counts engineering firms, construction companies, government institutions, food processing, craft brewers, wineries, farmers, private businesses, condominiums, and the emerging medical marijuana industry among its customers and has hundreds of systems installed across Canada and internationally.
Working with WaterTAP
While thrilled about their company’s rapid expansion, Doran and his colleagues had growing concerns about quality control, especially as they began to rely more on subcontractors. For help in working through this stage, they turned to WaterTAP’s Growth Catalyst program in spring 2018, with the project ending in the late fall.
“Thankfully, Growth Catalyst did not pigeonhole Aclarus into following a set of clichéd guidelines,” he says. “WaterTAP tailored the project to meet our specific needs for a marketplace that is so often dynamic, unpredictable, and resistant to a formulaic rulebook.”
As a result of WaterTAP’s support, Aclarus was able to contract Match Controls Automation Inc. and Interpump Ltd. to standardize the quality and functionality of the company’s external and internal sales and marketing documents, as well as the design and electrical schematics, and system specifications associated with the distribution of its system in commercial, industrial, and municipal markets.
As the company’s sales have grown, Aclarus has increasingly relied on outsourcing. While each project requires its own pricing model and unique design specifications, there were enough similarities across different markets for Match and Interpump to generate standardized templates for these subcontractors.
“We now have greater confidence that vendors can deliver the quality of product and professionalism that our clients have come to expect,” he says. “Since our market application is so varied, we needed to build corresponding plug-and-play designs for the respective scenarios. This allows us to deliver a product more quickly and to price the work more accurately up front.”
Feeling more confident in their subcontracting process has allowed the team’s founding members to focus on design enhancements and new patents, while satisfying existing clients. “Freeing up our staff resources is helping Aclarus grow to the next level,” Doran says.
Next steps: Staying competitive and plans for U.S. expansion
By streamlining its processes, Aclarus is now able to deploy installations more quickly and professionally, and stay competitive with European companies coming into the Canadian market. “As we switch our momentum to target more commercial and industrial customers, we are trying to grow and be sustainable at the same time,” Doran says.
Now, he adds, Aclarus will be digging deeper instead of wider. “Now that the knowledge base of our vendor partners is standardized, we don’t need to supervise so closely. We can simply continue locking in our strongest markets with the right partners.”
The company’s client base is mainly in Canada, but they are also are looking to build on the healthy growth they have in the United States. “Our goal is to continue expanding aggressively into the U.S. market,” Doran says. “The exchange rate helps us get into the United States, and currently we’re seeing a terrific response from our dealer network there.”
Accelerating competitiveness and sustainability
Doran believes that WaterTAP has fulfilled its mandate for accelerating the competitiveness and sustainability of Ontario water companies. In addition to making new hires, the project has helped Aclarus build a shorter sales cycle, and a reduction in cost of goods through standardized quoting and bulk ordering.
“The Growth Catalyst program has been a complete game changer for us,” he says. “We are hoping for more of the program because the return for us has been incredible.”
Josh Chong is a communications strategist at WaterTAP.