Hydroxsys is a New Zealand CleanTech company tackling a huge global problem. Predictions estimate that global demand for freshwater will outstrip supply by 40% before the end of this decade, and primary industries such as agriculture and horticulture are identified as the main culprits in the water crisis. Hydroxsys is embracing the challenge to provide a more sustainable solution with aspirations to recover and reuse one billion cubic metres of water within 20 years with their innovative membrane technology. Kariappa Maletira Karumbaiah, General Manager of Operations at Hydroxsys, believes that sustainable practices are both a corporate responsibility and a pathway to lasting success and by embracing innovation and taking calculated risks, New Zealand can create a greener and more resilient future.

Traditional wastewater filtration methods often struggle to handle the wide diversity in waste properties, both within and between industries. Through intensive research and development, Hydroxsys has engineered a next-generation membrane filtration system that can handle the variation more efficiently and cost-effectively, helping to make industries such as dairy, fisheries, mining and wine more sustainable. While Hydroxsys are beginning with the huge problem within the New Zealand primary industry sector, wastewater and access to freshwater is critical for sustainable development globally. According to Kariappa, “We aim to grow strategically, make a meaningful impact on water conservation, and become a leading player in the CleanTech industry.”

Investors recently shared their confidence in the Hydroxsys system when $3 million in capital was raised. Another significant development was the formalisation of a partnership with Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland and NZ Product Accelerator, which consists of local and global companies and more than 100 researchers and practitioners from 9 research organisations and several government organisations. NZ Product Accelerator is hosted by the University of Auckland.

Kariappa highlights that success rarely happens in isolation. “Our collaboration with the University of Auckland has been a longstanding one, spanning over a decade. Our partnership with NZ Product Accelerator is an exciting new development. Together this network brings a diverse range of resources and specialised skills.” Kariappa also recognises the contribution of Callaghan Innovation, which he believes plays a “vital role” in supporting the growth of New Zealand innovation. Callaghan Innovation has a CleanTech mission supported by a history of success. They recently reported that in Financial Year 2020, 98 of the CleanTech innovators supported by Callaghan Innovation generated $330m in revenue, supported 1,860 jobs and invested $95m in R&D.

In addition to leveraging collaborations, Kariappa emphasises that we need to recognise that research and development can be a road paved with failure. “We should celebrate failures too. At Hydroxsys, we did not land on the technology on day one. There are countless trials and failures, but we, as a team of many minds from all backgrounds, worked together to come up with innovative technology, and after years of hard work, we have a technology that works.”

Kariappa believes a mindset of innovation and creative problem-solving needs to start early and be embedded in our education system. He says he was fortunate to have the opportunity, while studying at University of Auckland, to participate in the award-winning Velocity programme delivered by the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). “Participating in the Velocity challenges in 2015 and 2017 significantly contributed to my personal and professional growth. It shaped my mindset, instilled a thirst for innovation, and cemented my dedication to creating practical and relevant solutions.”

Kariappa’s drive and dedication were recently recognised when he was named as an Emerging Leader Finalist for the 2022 Ministry for Primary Industry NZ awards for his commitment to advancing sustainable water solutions. He is future-focused and says that Hydroxsys is not just interested in tackling the commercial applications of industry wastewater but also plans to address humanitarian water solutions. “We are excited about the possibilities of delivering solutions to communities facing limited access to safe drinking water. We are actively exploring innovative and sustainable approaches to address water scarcity and ultimately aim to make a positive impact on the lives of every living being.”