Ecofilae, a start-up mining the wastewater market

The depletion of water resources combined with a growing need for water in the agricultural industry means that we must find solutions to tomorrow’s irrigation problems today. This widespread observation inspired Nicolas Condom, an agricultural engineer and AgroParisTech graduate with a PhD in soil and water science, to create Ecofilae.  

An original company

Founded in 2014, the company provides diagnostic tests and assessments to professionals in the water industry (manufacturers, local communities) to help them recover their wastewater (industrial, agro-industrial and oil effluent as well as domestic wastewater) and use it to irrigate crops and fields. Hosted by Irstea’s Montpellier center, Ecofilae is on the cusp of research, local government and private business, enabling it to provide manufacturers and local governments with relevant expertise. 
As both start-up and consultancy, Ecofilae is a unique company, something its founder Nicolas Condom clearly asserts: “We are not selling technology, but knowledge.” There is no patent pending: Ecofilae is based on an “innovative model of R&D partnership” with Irstea. 
 

A R&D partnership for new methods

With the help of Irstea researchers, Ecofilae is developing diagnostic methods and pilot projects to support the development of reuse in irrigation in France. 
For example, to establish the diagnostic tests, Irstea and Ecofilae are working on a new series of indicators (e.g., environmental and social impact) so that the cost-benefit analysis method can be applied to reusing wastewater. Although this method is useful in the decision-making process to highlight relationships between the challenges and risks of a given technology, it was only used in risk management or for agricultural issues and had not been developed for reuse. Ecofilae now uses this method to offer local governments several scenarios, either viable immediately or projected over 20 years. 
 
In addition, by combining scientists' experimental techniques and the young company's expertise, Irstea and Ecofilae have started pilot sites such as the one being installed in the community of Murviel-lès-Montpellier in France. While they are currently small-scale instrumented test areas, the sites will be extended to plots of 2000 to 3000 square meters over the course of 2016, which will put the experiments and field results into perspective. In addition to scientific instrumentation devices in the field, the main issue for the partnership is the implementation of a regulatory portfolio. Ecofilae supports Irstea’s scientists by creating diagnostics and scenarios and by raising awareness of essential elements for the creation of this portfolio among stakeholders.  

2016, a promising year

N. Condom and E. Macron receiving their award in December 2015Benefiting from an increasing awareness of circular economic practices as well as from improved French regulations for the reuse of processed water in irrigation since 2014, the outlook for this R&D partnership seems promising. This potential for success has been noticed by the French Ministry of Finance and the FrenchTech initiative. In December 2015, Ecofilae was one of 21 winners of the Cleantech Cop21 competition to represent clean technology in international negotiations with its Hotspotreuse© project, a collaborative web solution to secure the future of projects reusing processed wastewater scheduled to be released at the end of 2016.
Stay tuned for more on this project.