Blue Foot recognised as start-up of the year 2021
Blue Foot is an environmental technology company that developed a membrane that makes it possible to purify and reuse wastewater.
The election of the Limburg Startup of the Year is an initiative of the startup community of LRM: Limburg Startup and is organised in the context of the election of the Limburg Entrepreneur of the Year. Blue Foot Membranes succeeds Act&Sorb. This year too, the winner comes from the circular economy. What the jury found especially important is the fact that Blue Foot Membranes responds to a current theme, the shortage of fresh water. The jury was also charmed by the fact that the first customers, such as the Danish brewer Carlsberg, were convinced after an intensive period of research and development. “In addition, the company has international ambitions and scores high in terms of scalability and innovation,” according to the jury.
Blue Foot Membranes, named after the South American blue-footed booby, was founded five years ago as a spin-off of the Flemish Institute for Technological Research VITO. After years of research, the initiators succeeded in developing a membrane that makes it possible to purify domestic and industrial wastewater in such a way that it can be reused. Since the start, the partners have invested around 8.5 million euros in the project. In addition to VITO, it concerns the inter-university fund QBIC, the Limburg investment company LRM and the Innovation Fund. A last capital round of a total of 3 million euros earlier this year should enable Blue Foot Membranes to roll out its product internationally. Blue Foot Membranes has 19 employees.
There is increasing interest in the industry for the reuse of process water. Companies want to save on costs, want to reduce their impact on the environment and have to comply with increasingly strict standards. Blue Foot Membranes does not supply its technology directly to the end customer, but to builders of water treatment plants such as Pantarein Water.
The membranes are currently used by some twenty companies in the Netherlands and abroad, such as the processor of slaughterhouse waste Rendac in Denderleeuw and De Brabandere brewery in Harelbeke. In Indonesia, the technology is used to treat wastewater from palm oil plantations. “You need four liters of water to produce one liter of beer. If you can reuse those three liters of water that are now being lost, it makes a huge difference.” The purified water does not end up in the product, by the way. It could be, but society is not ready for that yet. The Danish brewer Carlsberg has also been a customer in Lommel since this year, via Pantarein Water. The beer giant wants to halve its water consumption by 2030. “Climate change is increasingly focusing on the reuse of water,” says Stephan van Hoof. “In the coming years, we want to expand to other sectors in addition to the food and beverage industry.” van Hoof makes no secret of his international ambitions: North America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia have great potential. The first project for the purification of domestic waste water has just been won.
Blue Foot Membranes is led by Stephan van Hoof. The Dutch CEO has over 25 experience in water purification and membrane filtration. According to van Hoof, we take pure water for granted, but it is not. “When we turn on the tap in the morning and water comes out, we find that obvious, but I have learned that the availability of water is not so obvious. In fact, water is less and less readily available. If we put all the water in the world in a bucket, we could barely drink a thimble full.” Today, the vast majority of our precious water is lost, and that has to change, says van Hoof. “A small part is used in a product or for drinking, but the rest is discharged. We need to move towards a circular use of water. This is possible by combining biological wastewater treatment with our membrane separation technology. This means that wastewater can be reused immediately.” van Hoof compares his membrane to a large coffee filter but with holes of 40 nanometers.
Source: HBVL 6.12.2021