“Cleantech,” also known as clean technology, is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of services, processes and products that aim towards reducing waste, while simultaneously requiring as few non-renewable resources as possible in their operation.
These types of “green and clean” technology sources can include solar, fuel cells, water remediation and renewable power generation1. As the challenges of a continually growing population that is leading to a decreased amount of land to live and grow food on continue to present themselves to the public, innovations in clean technology options have an impactful potential for the future world.
Popularized by the work of the founders of Cleantech Group, Nick Parker and Keith Raab in 2002, clean technology options have found applications in almost every industry. As the popularity of this technology increases in conjunction with the global interest to minimize the environmental impact of our choices, and investigation into the future trends of cleantech are worthwhile.
The application of clean technology within the agricultural industry is aimed towards improving the yields and quality of produced food through animal farming, aquaculture, sustainable forestry, crop farming and several other areas. By utilizing these types of technological advances, the agricultural sector has already secured its benefits including an improved efficiency in the use of resources, reduced environmental impact and a sustained profitability.
The world’s water crisis is a real dilemma that has negatively affected the agricultural industry, as well as the water supply available for direct human consumption. While the United States, as well as most of the other countries around the world, depend highly on the pulling of groundwater in order to supply population needs, the future availability of this source of water is bleak.
Israel, a global water superpower, has become a leading nation in responding to this crisis by their use of “manufactured water.2” With nearly two-thirds of the nation’s water supply being manufactured by advanced technologies including the recycling of wastewater and the desalination of sweater and brackish water, Israel is able to preserve its rivers, lakes and aquifers.
The breakthroughs achieved in Israel’s water power is hoping to change the way in which industries such as aquaculture function in order to ensure massive yields in their implementation. Aquaculture, which has also been referred to as “fish farming,” describes the breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals in any type of water environment they may require for survival4.
A major aspect of this process is the requirement of an aerator that is responsible for maintaining the amount of oxygen that is provided to the fish and other sea creatures present within these controlled environments. In response to the challenges that occur as a result of these aeration techniques, which are not only heavy equipment, but also pose a risk for inducing electrocution onto the sea life in its radius, An Israeli startup company known as Waterator is looking to correct this problem. Through their development of a system that relies upon water pressure rather than electricity to maintain oxygen levels, the pedal system is also composed of plastic that is devoid of any electrical components4.
Similarly, TomAlgae, a Belgian company, focuses their energy on manufacturing nutrition-rich microalgae-based feed that is used to supply the food for these aquaculture ponds. TomAlgae, as well as San Francisco company TerraVia, are both clean technology companies that are looking towards developing cost-effective ways to supply fish farms, while simultaneously minimizing the impact their processes may have on land and water supplies around the world4.
Outside of its requirement in the agricultural industry, water is a vital part of our existence, and as urbanization continues to limit the sources of fresh water, researchers are continuing to look towards how they can “do more with less.” While the desalination of water, smart water networks, as well as wastewater treatment options have been successful in increasing the ways in which we recycle our water sources, further innovation into these efforts is necessary to respond to the overwhelming global need for water.
Companies around the world are responding to this demand, and Boston-based Cambrian Innovation is one of the many companies that are presently manipulating the way in which we utilize wastewater. By use of their EcoVolt reactors, this company’s wastewater treatment plan involves the use of electrically charged microbes to produce clean water in a cost-effective manner4. While wastewater treatment plans have the potential to product harmful byproducts, such as brine, following their use, the WelltoDo project in affiliation with the Bird Foundation, has also solved this problem.
Through their use of catalytic modules within the wastewater treatment apparatus, the nitrates that serve as precursors to these harmful byproducts are converted into nitrogen gas.
Similar to the utilization of wastewater, the reality of a circular economy, in which there is no waste produced, is becoming a realistic option for the repurposing of waste to create new raw materials5.
Israeli company 3PLW is one of the leading bioplastic companies, which has recently developed a way to churn biomass retrieved from municipal waste into ready to use raw material. Through a process that the company claims only takes 72 hours, 3PLW utilizes an anaerobic digestion process that is significantly faster as compared to traditional methods that require 10-40 days4. Airlines such as Southwest and Alaska Airlines are also looking for ways in which they can implement a circular economy to cope with the production of plastics and other forms of waste.
With their collaboration with Looptworks, these airlines are repurposes seat upholstery into bags and apparel. Similarly, Pittsburgh-based Threat enterprise has repurposes bottles that have been found from the streets of Haiti into fabric that has been applied to Timberland clothing and shoe products4.
Despite the reality of the current environmental situation, the innovative minds within our research communities around the world are continually looking at new ways to repurpose what we may have originally thought of as of a useless object. The future of clean technology is promising, and while we cannot correct the damage that has already been done, there is still hope in our ability to adapt for the better.
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