BOSTON, Mass. – June 23, 2022 – In May, leading industrial water technology provider Gradiant announced its acquisition of Synauta, a Canadian start-up specialising in machine-learning software to optimise the performance of reverse osmosis (RO) systems. Capitalising on Gradiant’s $104.8 million funding injection from last year, the acquisition bolsters the company’s offering by providing new synergies in digital twins and AI-based performance optimisation for industrial markets.
Building a greater presence for Gradiant in the digital market was a key driver for the deal and a natural progression for a company which has carved out a sizeable stronghold in the challenging industrial market over the last decade. “Digital in water is nascent: it’s a fast-growing space. That’s exactly the kind of market we thrive in,” explained Prakash Govindan, COO of Gradiant. Synauta leverages machine learning algorithms to assess membrane operating parameters and make recommendations for maximised recovery and improved chemical management. With a demonstrated track record in providing energy and cost savings for desalination processes, combining Synauta’s machine learning algorithms with Gradiant’s treatment capabilities and existing digital framework represents the next piece in the latter’s digital strategy.
Integrating Synauta’s expertise presents clear benefits for Gradiant’s build-own-operate business model, with existing algorithms able to be rapidly integrated into operational plants to expediate return on investment. “With build-own-operate projects, the Achilles heel is always the operational cost,” Govindan explained. “If we can bring the power and chemical consumption down that is an immediate win.” Additionally, the digital twin models provide an extra competitive edge when going head-to-head with other established end-to-end solution providers.
While Gradiant’s SmartOps solution provides monitoring, automated maintenance and workflow processes, Synauta’s machine learning tools bring optimisation to maximise performance and add further efficiencies in cost and energy consumption. With Gradiant already well-positioned as an end-to-end solutions provider, the integration of Synauta’s machine learning capabilities provides optimisation for a plethora of technologies including counterflow reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, advanced oxidation processes and carrier gas extraction (CGE). “To be able to further refine the performance [of CGE] by using the machine learning tools that Synauta has, which are based on neural networks and finite time analytics, gives us an extra advantage,” Govindan told GWI. Gradiant is also planning to offer Synauta’s AI solution as a package with RO Infinity, a semi-batch RO system: one of the first projects of this nature is lined up in Western Australia.
Machine learning algorithms can lower the total water cost of technologies including CGE, seen here installed for a pharma client in Singapore.
Whereas digital twins have hitherto been generally used in municipal water and wastewater networks, there is growing demand for digital optimisation in industrial markets. Gradiant is already set to deliver a wastewater treatment plant with an incorporated digital twin to a large microelectronics client in Singapore. “They understand that this is the next big paradigm shift in terms of delivery of water for them,” commented Govindan. “That intersection of the importance of water for our Fortune 100 clients and the importance of digital in being able to deliver that promise at the right price is the impact that this partnership with Synauta can have.”
The differing dynamics of the municipal and industrial markets mean that Synauta can leverage Gradiant’s foothold to tailor its software for a new client base. While its application programming interface (API)-led approach sets it apart in flexibility and ease of deployment in municipal desalination and reuse, catering to industrial operators managing multiple non-water systems requires a platform. “We were less differentiated in the industrial space,” Synauta’s CEO Mike Dixon explained. “For us to develop the platform [ourselves] was a huge investment, but to continue working in the back end of what Gradiant has already created makes a lot of sense.”
Although Gradiant’s digital portfolio is maturing, this deal is set to be one of many in its sights as it looks to further augment its end-to-end solutions offering. “It has to be synergistic, like Synauta,” Govindan emphasised. “There are markets we don’t operate in, Europe for example, where an acquisition would make sense.” Next in line is the acquisition of a biological treatment provider, Govindan told GWI.
Gradiant, VP of Marketing