Water treatment Digital Solutions Europe

3 investments showing female water tech founders rock

Thursday, 29 February 2024

Three major investments kicked off 2024 and provided positive news for female founders in the water technology space. Tom Freyberg reports.

Topping a record year

The gender imbalance in the water sector is well known, yet recent news of three female-founded tech companies raising investment helped to kickstart 2024 with positive news.

This follows a record year for investment in water. In 2023, there was an estimated $708 million of equity, or equity-like commitments across 100 deals, according to Global Water Intelligence (GWI).

While GWI said it is “difficult to see how last year can be topped in terms of funding inflows”, 2024 got off to a great start, with three notable investments worth checking out, covering the smart sewer market, to lead service line replacement compliance and smart agriculture.


Amanda Siqueira and Michelle Aguilar: Spearheading the digital sewer revolution

First up is Australian deep-tech pipeline maintenance software company, VAPAR, which raised AUD$5 million (US$3.2 million) in funding for expansion into North American markets.

Founded in 2018 by Australian female engineers Amanda Siqueira, CEO, and Michelle Aguilar, CTO, the company’s raise was led by led by Dutch water technology specialist PureTerra Ventures as well as US software giant Autodesk.

After working in the inspection team as an intern for utility Sydney Water, Siqueira saw an opportunity to digitalise the CCTV inspection of sewers, which she saw as a “very manual, slow and repetitive task” for utilities.

To date, the company’s solution is used by water companies in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, with more than 20,000 “pipe investment decisions” based on VAPAR’s AI-powered insights.

The investment will be used to accelerate growth in the US market. VAPAR was selected by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, in collaboration with the Environmental Tech Lab, as a finalist in a competition seeking to enhance operational efficiency across its wastewater network.

The co-founders previously raised AUD1.2 million (US$883,000) and initially conducted a partnership trial with Veolia Network Services in Victoria, Australia.


Megan Glover: Leading lead service line digital compliance

Cloud-based water management and testing company 120Water secured a hefty $43 million growth investment from equity investment firm Edison Partners.

The new funds will be used to expand the 120Water team further, led by Megan Glover, co-founder and CEO, and technology advancements and go-to-market efforts.

The investment comes ahead of significant federal action on lead service lines (LSL) in the US. 
A new federal Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) will require states’ drinking water to be 100 per cent lead-free, and all LSLs to be cataloged and undergo regular testing, surveillance and remediation, starting from mid October 2024.

120Water has developed a platform to enable a “digital water compliance solution with its data collection and aggregation solution”. Revenue growth has been reported at 60 per cent annually, according to Edison Partners.

Following the final Lead and Copper Rule Revisions release at the end of 2021, Glover previously told Aquatech Online that “With the recent passing of the final LCRR in the US, the discussion around the importance of addressing water quality issues from the distribution system to customer taps has never been more pressing.”

According to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), around 9.2 million LSLs serve water across 50 states. As a result, the testing and compliance market associated with LCRI is estimated to be worth more than $2 billion.


Antonella Maggioni: Smarter irrigation to reduce water in agriculture

Meanwhile, Spanish start-up Agrow Analytics raised €650,000 to scale up a solution that helps to optimise water use and reduce water footprint in agriculture. The seed round was led by accelerator GoHub Ventures, Demium Capital and First Drop.

Given 70 per cent of freshwater is used for agriculture, potential water savings achieved here could be significant.

Led by co-founder and CEO Antonella Maggioni, the company has developed a system that it said can unify “all data related to irrigation” to the process and provide automatic recommendations on where, when and how much to irrigate.

After signing what it called “the first water footprint compensation contract in Europe”, it will use the investment to grow and eventually hopes to enable large corporations to compensate their water footprint through the generation of water credits and compensation.

Maggioni said the investment “marks a milestone in our international expansion and the continuous innovation in precision agriculture”.

-       Tom Freyberg is an environmental journalist and content director for Aquatech Online.