Meet the clean, green industries of Madison’s future

Sure, things haven’t exactly been booming. But with consistent breakthroughs in science and advancements in technology delivered by UW–Madison and a strong network of angel investors, many area businesses have been able to grow despite economic circumstances.

One sector that continues to do well both nationally and locally is the clean-tech industry, bolstered by funds from the Obama administration and supplied with innovators from the university. An emerging marketplace for clean-tech—a general term used to describe businesses that provide eco-friendly goods and services—means better air and water quality, less chemical use and environmental contamination, and more job opportunities. And best of all it’s in high demand.

“The youth today have been trained in the ways of environmentalism and they are demanding clean-tech,” says Terence Barry, chief scientist and co-founder of AquaMost Labs. “Everybody is demanding that we take care of the planet and clean everything up. It’s not just a fad, this is for real.”

Not only is it the real deal, there’s money to back it up: AquaMost recently drew significant early-stage funding from two of the state’s largest equity groups—Marquette University’s Golden Angels Network and Wisconsin Investment Partners as well as a few individuals.

In the Beginning: Founded by a group of UW–Madison scientists in 2006, AquaMost patented a state-of-the-art technology with the ability to destroy harmful pathogens and a wide variety of toxic, harmful pollutants that contaminate our water.

Something’s Fishy: AquaMost’s original research was on inventing a high-tech filter for aquariums. As the technology began to take shape, the ecological benefits of combining ultraviolet light and a light-activated catalyst to destroy contaminants became apparent. Today the focus is environmental remediation.

Drink it In: The four-employee outfit has now developed a water purification device that promises to make groundwater safer for  consumption and has partnered with Pennsylvania-based remediation company Encotech to use its machine on several groundwater sites contaminated by industrial waste and chemical spills. If all goes well the machines will be sold and others will be made ready for the market.


Clean Pioneer: Virent

Also continuing its growth spurt is the biofuels technology company Virent, founded in 2002. They’ve raised more than $116 million to date and currently employ ninety-five individuals who convert plant sugars into clean-burning, sustainable fuels.

Jim TrethewayCompany to Watch: BioIonix

Keep an eye on this water treatment company as it continues to grow and bring jobs to the region. Established in 2005, BioIonix has
developed a machine that disinfects liquid streams used in the food processing industry without the use of chemicals. The technology also allows for the reuse of water. Jim Tretheway, BioIonix president and CEO, says he hopes to expand the current technology platform into other fields, including oil production and municipal water treatment.

“We draw upon the biotech expertise of UW–Madison, the food processing equipment manufacturing knowledge of local suppliers, Wisconsin’s extensive electrical engineering expertise, and the quality fabrication skills of area technicians,” says Tretheway. “With all of this, plus Madison’s high quality of life, I can’t imagine a better location for this company.”

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