Blockchain’s WaterChain Is Thirsty For Success In Industrial Treatmentbr>
WaterChain is developing a blockchain solution for cleaning up the water industry. The company is working on an initial coin offering (ICO) that will allow investors to stake tokens and facilitate the funding of water recycling projects.
The water industry is extremely old-school when it comes to treatment facilities. An estimated 80% of the world’s sewage isn’t treated, and combined with a breakdown in utility infrastructure, growing populations, and industry demands, it’s forced treatment solutions to be implemented on-site.
Unfortunatley, most industries don’t want to do that. They want to pay a metered rate and outsource treatment to service companies, many of them lacking the capital and/or systems to do an adequate job. WaterChain aims to solve both problems.
The company is now in a pre-ICO seed funding round for its concept of modular water treatment and recycling solutions.
President/CEO Riggs Eckelberry talked with Block Tribune about the project and its prospects.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay, so the last time I was speaking with you was to enlist you for an algae biofuels summit. Now, is this an offshoot of that, or are you still working in algae?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Well, let me just tell you quickly how we progressed over the years, because as you know, we started as Origin Oil, the original oil, which was algae, right? Sure enough, we developed a really phenomenal way to harvest biofuels. That’s pretty hard to do and shows that it could be done for biofuel. The problem was that right about 2010, the fracking and horizontal drilling phenomenon just blew away the algae industry as a biofuel. The big players, like Solazyme, just disappeared. Today, algae is kind of an afterthought. Now, we do have algae customers and we have equipment that’s been running for five, six years with nonstop and very good, but what we had to do was, in a sense, find new traction because algae became a science project. It’s reinforcement, because we love it.
What we really did was we realized that our electric way of pulling algae out of the water is really good for cleaning up really dirty, really oily water. Sure enough, that’s what we became. We became … If you can’t fight the enemies, join them. Sure enough, we started cleaning up the frack water and then we extubated that out to the general water clean up industry. We now are commercial phase on cleaning up industrial, and commercial, and agricultural water. That has become very stable. Also, I should mention, in 2015 we started acquiring companies and we have an excellent operating company in Texas that generates good revenues and we’re doing more of that.
Now, finally around Christmas time, we really finalized months of research into how to reinvent the water industry because what was happening in the water industry is that there’s a break down of infrastructure, problems in Flint, Michigan and so forth, where end users — some people call “polluters,” but really what they are is the user of water: agricultural, oil and gas, etc. — are being saddled with the duty of cleaning the water because the municipalities can’t take the dirty water anymore. They’re having to turn it down, which means that now all of a sudden if you’re Intel, you got to clean your own water. Well, Intel doesn’t want to do that. They just want to keep paying on the meter like they always did. This is what we call forced decentralization of water, where now, literally satellite water treatment has become the big thing, and that’s where waterchaining comes in.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Do you need any infrastructure to do what you do, or do you go to the actual sites and perform your magic there?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Well, think of it a little bit like Solar City, where Elon Musk set up a system whereby you go to the owner of the home, or a business, or whatever and say, “Don’t pay for that solar array. We’ll pay for it. You just keep paying the utility bill to us and you’ll save money and you’ll be happy.” Solar City, of course, made the investment, took the profits, and also has the asset basis. WaterChain is really a way to raise capital to fund these next generation modular onsite water treatment systems that people are being forced to do. As a result, they get a really easy way to solve the problem no muss, no fuss, and then we’re using blockchain technology to make it very reliable and scalable.
Because that’s the beauty of blockchain is that you have automated events based on, let’s say, just for example Bruce we have, let’s say, Intel commits to a longterm auto contract, they escrow that contract into what’s called a smart contract on blockchain, and then whenever a device says, “Okay, water clean.” Then automatically blockchain technology automatically pays people. Pays the service provider, pays whoever’s been involved with it, the [inaudible 00:04:44] or whoever’s been involved with that project, and of course, WaterChain. WaterChain is two things really. WaterChain is a capital play where we bring coin investors into a very interesting way to share in profits from these water treatment systems. Secondly, it’s a way to use the next generation technologies that are just starting to appear for modular real-time internet connected water treatment.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Where does the clean water go once you’ve fixed it?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Oh, this is great, because the municipalities have been saying, “Don’t send us your dirty water, send us your treated water.” Well now, you’ve just cleaned the water on site and you had to pay for that, so heck, why not reuse it, right? There’s an opportunity. The U.S. only recycles a tiny percent of its water. I don’t know if you’ve heard this stat, but Israel is the leader in the world, 80% recycling of their water. Next one down in the world is Spain, which is 20%. The U.S. is at 1%. We have a problem where the water just gets thrown away. Now, with satellite or distributed water treatment decentralized, if they treated their own water, what the heck, why not reuse it? Because that’s free. I believe it’s going to lead to a tremendous increase in reuse of water. Bruce, we need to start recycling the water, because there is water shortages just about everywhere, even the mid-west.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Are you only working in the US at this point, or are you international as well?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Right. Well, what we started doing … I mean, I’d love to do this … Our first project in Bakersfield, because it’s so close, but I was in Puerto Rico last month for a week and there’s a great report on RT that is actually on our homepage that shows some of the things we did. One thing is very clear, Puerto Rico, which is part of the U.S. is in dire need of help with their water systems. We’ve basically said, “Look, the first project we’re going to do, right away without waiting to build all this infrastructure, is do at least one water project, maybe more, in Puerto Rico to get them up to speed, because they have a need.” Having said that, we’re wide open to doing WaterChain as an international play. It’s not U.S.-centric. It will, of course, be capitalized using U.S. security law. We’re very, very firm on that, but that doesn’t mean that we’re limited to the U.S. I think that we’re going to have a lot of fun in many parts of the world helping people grapple with the water crisis that’s going on.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: There’s a big problem in Africa and other countries with access to clean water. Do you have anything that can potentially, beyond the industrial, help these people to clean their water?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Yeah. I mean, okay, so this is really a job for, if you’re talking nonindustrial, there is a big problem. At the same time, the biggest users of water remain primarily agricultural. Secondarily, industrial, and oil and gas, and so forth. Human use is a relatively small percentage of total overall use. Having said that, there is a need. What we see in places like Africa is a lot of intervention by the NGOs, like charity water, Water.com, and so forth, World Vision, and we intend to ally with those guys and let them use blockchain technology to … For them to have a specific problem, which is not so much how to reliably do a pay per performance thing, because they … Basically, it’s a donation process.
It’s how to deal with the corruption and the transparency issues that occur, which are big problems. That, again, is a great use of blockchain. We don’t really have a mission to be NGO players, but look at it this way. If we can put in place a basic blockchain infrastructure for these new generation water systems, then we’d happily let an NGO overlay an app on top of it for these charity water implementations and that’s where we become sort of the host, or the protocol for any kind of water activity, including saving lives in Africa.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Since water is such a local commodity and it’s fragmented, do you have any problems reaching the market with any impact? I meant, it seems to me you’d have to go to hundreds of these smaller ventures and convince them that this can work.
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Yeah, that’s true. What we’re going to see is adoption by primarily the service providers. Now, they’re some mom-and-pop service providers, but there’s also some huge ones. Eventually, you have somebody like a Veolia, or an Evoqua, World Water Works, those kinds of players. These are multi-billion dollar companies. If eventually they adopt it, then that’s huge. We feel that we need to show some proof of concept. We need to set up a viable way for coin investors to make money from water projects and then just wrap it up. If it’s got … The key to getting a lot of scale is to reduce friction.
If we’re using blockchain to eliminate human involvement, and settlements, and payments, and so forth, then that dramatically reduces friction and these things can ramp up. I think that we’ll see we will basically be showing the way. I’ve been in a dot com, you were in a dot com, these things can happen quickly with the network effect if it’s set up that way, if it’s set up to be very, very viral, shall we say? Our plan is to be highly welcoming to all players. If you’re a financier, or if you’re a binding marketplace like ConstructConnect, or something like that, or a device manufacturer that reports to the internet, go ahead. Layer on top of WaterChain and we’ll kind of create an ecosystem.
There’s a tremendous potential now. It’s hard to look beyond the next year or two as to the ultimate potential, but I think that we’ll do this. There are new technologies for water treatment that are modular, that are internet connected, that do heavy recycling, that are real time, and we’re going to have a chance to bring those out into the open, so they’ll be adopted not just by us, but also by everybody else because we will have blocked these into the front and demonstrated that they can make a difference. I think it’s going to be kind of a contagion by example. However, what we do, I hope we do incredibly well. I think we’ll also show that these are the systems of the future.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What are your ICO plans?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: Right now we just launched a seed round as OriginClear to fund the development of WaterChain. That’s a classic, typical, a credit investor thing. Then, we’re going to actually create the ICO and so we intend to go through the usual … Well, first of course, build it, develop it, architect it, and so forth, and that’s what the immediate seed round is paying for. Then we’ll go through the typical private presale, etc. I think they’ll likely be a combination of a security instrument on the capital side that will be completely SEC compliant. Then on the process side, they’ll be some kind of utility token that’ll just be … Won’t have an investment value.
It’ll just be there to help the process go, to let these executions, contract executions and settlements happen, so kind of a hybrid model. I believe that if we do this right, we’ll have completed our ICO by the end of the year. I’m not making any guarantees, but what’s great about our timing is, everybody’s busy moving from these noncompliant tokens that the SEC had a problem with, to the new security tokens, and there are new exchanges being built. We believe that by the time we have the ICO up and running later this year, they’ll also be exchanges for these compliance security’s tokens and I think that we’ll be in the right spot and hitting the wave.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What is your overview on the state of blockchain adoption in industry?
RIGGS ECKELBERRY: The main point is that this is the time I believe for vertical industry implementations, as opposed to – it’s been all financial mostly and maybe, I don’t know, CryptoKitties, or whatever. It’s been very early stage stuff, very much like pre-2000 when it was all kind of wacky. Now, we’re entering almost a post year 2000 phase where we’re doing real world implementations of crypto, and blockchain, and I think that’s really, really interesting. I think we’ll see a whole bunch of these industry implementations. We saw Warren Buffet was saying, “We’ll never do crypto, we’ll never do blockchain,” or whatever, and then of course his railroad, BNSF, literally gets involved in a blockchain implementation for the railroad. I think we’re going to see a lot of that, because it’s a natural thing.