The future is bright for a Guelph company whose innovative water-quality monitoring technology is helping industries and municipalities save millions of dollars while better protecting the environment.
MANTECH manufactures water analysis systems that provide faster, more accurate test results while using environmentally-friendly methods
Incorporated in 2010, MANTECH has worked with Innovation Guelph from the start, as a Fast Lane client and through the Fuel Injection program, and is quickly making inroads in a growing global market that’s changing rapidly due to technological advances and evolving government regulations.
“Innovation Guelph has helped us grow from start-up to SME to our current position where we’re expecting to achieve $5 million in sales by June 2018,” says Robert Menegotto, MANTECH’s president and CEO.
In particular, the company’s new PeCOD system for analyzing chemical oxygen demand (COD) is a potential game-changer. It’s a unique, nanotechnology-based approach to measuring the amount of oxygen required to oxidize soluble and particulate organic matter in water. COD is used to assess the effects that waste water discharged from a factory or water treatment plant will have on the rivers and lakes that receive it. Higher COD levels mean higher amounts of organic matter in the water, which reduces dissolved oxygen levels and can harm aquatic life.
Conventional COD testing uses dichromate and mercury — both toxins — and takes about three hours. MANTECH’s PeCOD system provides accurate results in less than 15 minutes without the use of harmful chemicals. PeCOD was recently approved by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change as a green and fast method for measuring COD.
Menegotto says the PeCOD system has additional advantages over other tests such as Total Organic Carbon (TOC) and UV254 that measure organic matter but cannot identify the changes that occur during treatment. It’s also available in portable, laboratory, automated and online configurations, providing the flexibility to suit a variety of customer needs. And while Mantech’s initial focus was on industrial waste water, the technology is opening up new opportunities on the drinking water side of the industry.
“We have come up a solution that has both economic and public health implications,” says Menegotto.
One of the challenges in treating drinking water occurs when compounds released by decaying leaves and other organics that exist naturally in the source water react with the chemicals used to disinfect it and produce harmful new byproducts, some of which are known to cause cancer. MANTECH’s technology is able to identify and measure the changes that occur during treatment, allowing plant operators to make real-time adjustments to their processes and produce safer, cleaner water.
“We’re developing a market that doesn’t exist yet. We’re measuring a parameter that’s never been measured before because no analyzer has been able to do it before. We need to fully define our system’s capabilities so we can educate the market and then sell it.”
The company’s efforts have been supported by Innovation Guelph on several fronts, including a recent move to a larger, more functional space that’s home to MANTECH’s offices, laboratory, product assembly and shipping facilities.
With help from IG, MANTECH has been able to break through some key barriers to growth. They’ve sharpened their understanding of the market and their place in it, created a new mission statement, developed new branding and a website to support it, and continue to make improvements in managing customer relationships.
The hard work is paying dividends. MANTECH sells its products in 45 countries and frequently fields calls from distributors and industrial enterprises interested in the technology.
“We’ve had hundreds of new leads since doing the Fuel Injection project,” he says. “What we need help with now is our processes.”
After guiding the brand development phase, Innovation Guelph mentor Don Thompson has been helping the MANTECH team fine-tune its sales funnel and standardize interactions with customers through every stage of the cycle.
“The challenge now is, they’ve got all this good momentum going, how do they actually manage it?” says Thompson. “How do they deal with their success and ensure that these processes can handle all the leads and scale appropriately? It’s really about scale-up.”
To help drive sales — and determine the return on investment for potential customers in various industries that could benefit from PeCOD — MANTECH is involved in numerous strategic collaborations and demonstrations with academics, governments, utilities and industries in North America and abroad.
In a 10-month long project that got underway last spring, the company is working with University of Toronto researchers to test the PeCOD system in real-world conditions at a water treatment plant in Peterborough, Ont. This year, the company will take part in a University of Massachusetts study examining disinfection byproducts found in drinking water systems in New York City, Philadelphia and Portland, Maine.
MANTECH is also the exclusive provider of water-monitoring technology in a $2-million European-Canadian study looking at ways to reduce COD in water-intensive industries such as pulp and paper and textiles.
That project grew out of earlier success at a pulp mill in Chile, where an engineer installed MANTECH’s PeCOD system because she preferred its “green chemistry” approach over the dichromate used in COD testing that has been the industry standard for decades. By making a US$20,000 investment to protect workers’ health and safety, the mill ended up saving $10,000 a day — $3 million in the first year.
“They were understanding what was showing up in the waste-water stream more quickly, which allowed them to optimize and reduce the amount of chemicals they were using in their processes upstream,” says Menegotto.
The technology may also have a significant role to play in Ontario’s growing food and beverage sector. MANTECH recently took part in a case study supported by the Bloom Centre for Sustainability that aims to reduce the impact of waste water produced by Ontario’s craft brewing industry.
Thompson says continuing to develop those collaborative relationships will be a key part of MANTECH’s strategy in the coming months.
“Whether it’s a $3-million business or a $300-million business, they all have the same problems: How do you scale? How do you grow? How do you establish the right relationships? How do you set that solid foundation for future growth?”