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The Blue Economy: The Growing Demand for Water Desalination and Aquaculture Systems

water desalination, child drinking water with the ocean as background

About 70 percent of the Earth is covered in water, but out of the 1.4 billion cubic kilometers available, only about 200,000 is freshwater. That’s bad. Why? Because by 2030, current water supplies will only meet about 60 percent of the global demand. This certainly makes for a Blue Economy problem that needs a bold solution. Thankfully, the answer may lie in water desalination and aquaculture systems that mitigate the need for depleting freshwater reserves.

The water desalination market is expected to expand tremendously in the coming years. In fact, some estimates suggest that the aquaculture systems space could reach $35 billion within 10 years. And this growing demand is driving new companies – like Forward Water Technologies, Saltworks, and Real Tech Inc. – to develop innovative solutions.

aquaculture systems, logos of companies with desalination solutions
Some innovative businesses are shaping the future of water desalination and aquaculture systems.

More People, More Problems

The math is pretty simple: an increase in human population has led to an increase in the demand for water. And it’s not just drinking water that’s at a premium, it’s also the kind of water needs that arise from industry. While drinking water needs for global societies are at the top of the list, water is integral to agricultural production. As a matter of fact, 70 percent of all water used involves agricultural activities for both crops and livestock. Available surface water and drinking water are thus resources that water desalination and aquaculture systems can prove vital to.

These are not the only pressures encouraging advances in water desalination platforms. Significant demand also exists in various industrial sectors as it relates to wastewater management. Water desalination is being advanced in many industries to change contaminated water into safe, clean water. The industries with the highest demand in this regard include oil/gas, automakers, aerospace, as well as municipalities. In addition to producing clean water, these new aquaculture systems save billions of dollars in waste processing and environmental effects.

Bold Businesses Providing Water Desalination Solutions

From drinking water to wastewater decontamination, several water desalination startups have made an impact on current aquaculture systems. Here’s a closer look at a few of the aforementioned businesses making bold moves in this space:

  • Forward Water Technologies – Founded by GreenCentre Canada in conjunction with Queens University in Ontario, this company is a true innovator in water desalination. The company currently manages wastewater and provides fresh water for reuse for various industries. Furthermore, they offer these services in an automated and scalable fashion for a variety of aquaculture systems.
  • Saltworks Technologies – Based in Richmond, Canada, this water desalination startup provides and installs small modular units to industries. These modules use reverse osmosis and an electrodialysis reversal platform to remove salt in industrial wastewaters. As a result, these customized water desalination modules save companies billions of dollars in aggregate. In addition, the units utilize artificial intelligence to minimize energy use and maximize quality.
  • Atlantis Technologies – This aquaculture systems company evolved out of a project for the U.S. Army. When tasked with water desalination to provide troops drinking water, the company resulted in inventing a patented RDI supercapacitor platform. Saltwater passes through two oppositely-charged supercapacitors, which pull the salt from the water. Today, this platform is used to treat wastewater but has been utilized for drinking water as well.
  • Real Tech Inc. – Originally founded in 2004, Real Tech Inc. has been scaling its aquaculture system technologies for more than a decade. The company now works not only with various industries but also with municipalities in drinking water and wastewater management. Its process involves the use of optical sensors to detect and remove ions and contaminants.

Opportunities for Future Innovations in Water Desalination

At present, the greatest demand for water desalination is within various industrial sectors. Likewise, municipalities are in need of these services as urban populations swell. But estimates suggest that by 2050 roughly five billion people will be experiencing water shortages globally.

This data will shift the need for innovations from wastewater management to drinking water supplies. At the same time, the need for aquaculture systems that utilize lower energy and provide zero emissions will also increase.

Given this, aquaculture system needs will continue to evolve and change in the years to come. Many bold businesses are addressing today’s challenges related to aquaculture systems. But ample room for future innovations in water desalination and other areas still exist. And while public policies help, it will likely be up to business innovations to lead the way in this pursuit.


For more on Bold Business’ series on the Blue Economy, check out these stories on Deep Seabed Mining and Creating a Sustainable Future.

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