Wastewater Europe Pipes

Addressing an $88bn challenge: start-up VAPAR backed to digitalise sewers

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Australian, female founded start-up VAPAR has secured $2.5m seed investment to help grow internationally.

Digitalising sewer inspection

Australian sewer AI inspection start-up VAPAR has secured $2.5 million in seed investment that it plans to use to fuel its international expansion.

Investors include Halma Ventures, Sprint Ventures, Access Capital Ventures and Metagrove Ventures.

The idea for the company was borne from co-founder and CEO Amanda Siqueira’s time spent in Sydney Water and seeing an opportunity to digitalise sewer inspection – a “very manual, slow and repetitive task”.

Launching the company in 2018 together with co-founder Michelle Aguilar, today the company is working with utilities including United Utilities and Anglian Water in the UK, and Greater Western Water, City of Ryde and City West Water in Australia.

The company estimates that over $88 billion is spent annually on repairing pipes, with utilities grappling with intense weather events, asset degradation and the rapid increase in wastewater loads.

“The industry can’t continue to meet the volume of work needed to address the problem.”

Siqueira believes the solution can help with the challenge of untreated sewer overflows, which have recently caught attention in the UK.

Speaking to Aquatech Online, she said: “Sewage overflowing into our waterways is unacceptable. We as a wastewater industry need to come up with ways of eliminating these overflows by finding problems before the spill occurs. When you add in the work required to commission the length of new pipes and the inspections to monitor degradation of the existing pipes network and you've got a huge condition monitoring storm brewing.

“For years it's all been done manually. But the industry can't continue to meet the volume of work needed to address the problem. That's where cutting-edge technology has a key role to play. That's our mission at VAPAR.”

Unlocking kilometres of data

Commenting on where the investment will be spent, the CEO added: “We're investing in getting our solution out to water authorities that need it the most. The UK has over 560 million metres of sewers and we've estimated that the US has well over two billion metres.

“We'll be growing our product and customer success teams to ensure that water authorities in these two markets can leverage the power of AI (artificial intelligence) for data-driven decision making.”

Siqueira and Aguilar plan to use the funding to hire locally and grow VAPAR’s customer base in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, which will be used as a launchpad to later expand into the US market.

“We are unlocking thousands of kilometres of data from our video inspections.”

VAPAR started working with United Utilities through its Innovation Lab in 2019. The utility is now rolling out VAPAR’s software in its pipe network programs to increase the efficiency of the end-to-end process.

Samantha Sloan, network business manager for United Utilities, said: “Through VAPAR’s software we are rapidly unlocking thousands of kilometres of data from our video inspections that were previously only available by having someone watch them.”

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