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A “Forward” Thinking Solution to the Way Industry Handles Wastewater

Stockhouse Editorial
0 Comments| October 26, 2021

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Finding practical and long-term solutions to water sustainability is one of the planet’s most pressing needs. And one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century is access to abundant, clean water for human consumption, increasing agricultural needs, and industry. Today, innovative technologies are needed to address this challenge.

Enter Ontario-based Forward Water Technologies Inc. (TSX-V: FWTC, Forum) – a forward-thinking company that is revolutionizing the remediation of wastewater by breaking the water-energy paradigm and recover water that is permanently lost today.

In this informative video Q&A podcast, Stockhouse Media’s Dave Jackson was joined by Dr. Howie Honeyman, CEO of Forward Water Technologies, to introduce his company to our Stockhouse investor audience.


SH: To start off with, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the history of the company, and how your technology works…in layman’s terms?

HH: Sure. So my background I'm a trained scientist and one of the things I've learned to do, and I think I'm good at doing is identifying chemistry that can do work from the laboratory. I've worked in a couple of startup companies doing this where I started off very early in the company because I saw the chemistry and the materials doing a job that would be commercially really interesting and that kind of drew me to what Forward Water was doing.Which was a spin-out of a technology from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario and I saw some of the initial experiments on water purification and said that is elegant and that is powerful and that is something that has industrial purpose. So I really got excited about it.Through the journey out of an accelerator at that time I was able to get in front of the technology, lead it as CEO as it was spun out of that accelerator and since then I've been developing the business around that to get it into the commercial spacebut take a step back and how does it work and what does it do and why is this so elegant? Well, if you take the process of osmosis, which is a naturally occurring process that we use in the environment all around us naturally occurring, and what that does is it transports water spontaneously with no applied energy across a membrane across a thin skin and it does that because on one side of the membrane from opposite to the water, there's a very,very salty solution or a higher solidity solution and that draws the water across. I won't go into the details but it's a dynamic process again, with no applied energy, no energy inputand it just does that automatically. What Forward Water’s technology does is you can create a crazy concentrated salt solution on one side of a very special membrane that only allows water to go across.

When you create that situation, you can pull water and reject all the contaminants in that water by virtue of the membrane to the other side of the membrane, where we have this super salty solution. It turns out that super salty solution that we use is a proprietary one. It's undergone chemical development and what we can do is once we complete that process where we've pulled only clean water across the membrane, we can then energize that what we call the draw solution to turn the salt into two gasses and when that happens, the gases just bubble out of the top of the water, leaving behind freshcleanpotable water. Then we go back, and we capture those gases that escaped just like mineral water going flat and we bring them back into the front end of the process in a re concentrated solution. So we haven't let anything escape from the system.It's a closed loop materials process, which makes it very affordable. So what we've done is we've used a spontaneous low-energy process to separate water out of incredibly complex dirty stream. We've then used a small amount of thermal energy to pull out that special salt from the clean water. So now we've captured our clean water and we go back, and we grab that gas that has been involved. So it's closed loop on a materials basis. So it'scost-effective, low energy and provides clean water from what would otherwise be water that has sent for burn or boil today and so what we're doing is scaling that technology up and we can reclaim water from very, very heavily contaminated waste streams. That is water we're literally throwing away today.

SH: Can you update our investor audience and your Forward Watershareholders on any new company developments, especially in the wake of COVID-19?

HH: So what we've really been focused on since we tookthe experiment into the commercial space is doing really two things. One is and this is really important over the last several years, while we've been a private company. What we've done is we've shown that the technology can be scaled, and you can bring itto an engineering level and beyond. So we've eliminated the scale of risk, we've eliminated the engineering risk, and then we've used that information to begin customer development and why we moved into the public spaces for two reasons, the public space is a way for us to generate the resources immediately as we enter the public market to complete the commercializationbut also the public markets very interested in not only commercial or success and the growth of the business butI feel that there's a very strong sense for developing an environmentally robust technology. We're focused on water which I think is becoming a very visible, highly critical material and resource that we all need. We all use it. I think there's one awareness that not only can the investors see the commercial success for the business, but they can also recognize that they are in fact participating in a way to scale an environmentally important technology.

SH: Howie, what separates Forward Waterfrom the competition and makes your business model unique?

HH: The horrible secretin wastewater, Dave, is the fact that the vast majority of the wastewater that we deal with todaycompromised industrial wastewater is thrown away. It's burned, literally incinerated, or evaporated into dryness using massive amounts of energy or it's put down a hole for permanent disposal. That's really our competition and there are some evolving new technologies that are coming out there that treat in our space, but we think because we have a low energy process that's got spontaneous water separation with no material consumption. We have a competitive advantage over some of the other developing technologies and this preservation of the water resources also driving the success. So I think that's whatwe're seeing the uptake from a business model perspective and getting into client's hands we're finding a services model is becoming really attractive. It takes away the risk from the end user. It allows them to draw out of operational budgets and it allows us to generate ongoing continued revenue year after year through a contractas opposed to a single sale. Soit's a business model that helps our clients and allows an ongoing revenue stream for ForwardWater, which I think is excitingfrom an ownership perspective for a stockholder.

SH: The company is still privately held. When and where to do expect to publicly list?

HH: Correct. We're just completing a reverse takeover. We should be very shortly listing on the stock exchange in Toronto with the TSXV.

SH: What’s the long-term societal benefit that your technology for remediation of wastewater provide?

HH: So this isour vision here at ForwardWater. When you build a factory, you put infrastructure into that factory. I like the staircase analogy. You buy a staircase for your factory. You use it for the lifetime of that factory going up and down the stairs but what if you could actually do that with the water? What if that factory that produces the pharmaceutical drugs that we use, the textiles that we use every day, all sorts of variety of chemical compounds and you simply use that water as a piece of infrastructure over and over and over again, thereby you keep the contaminants containedwithin the factory. You allow yourself to reuse that water over and over again and you don't have to keep taking in discharging into the environment on an ongoing basis. That's our vision. So, it's a way ofpreservingour water resources and doing itin a safer long-term manner and really, really being respectful to the environment that's around us.

SH: What’s the global market look like for your technology and what are the big picture revenue metrics?

HH: Wellto be honest water makes everything. Wateris as close to the universal solvent as you can get. It's used for electronics, manufacturing, hygieneproducts, food, and beverage. These are all things that we rely on every day. So from a global perspective, not only is it ubiquitous in terms of manufacturing and being able to regenerate it. There is a global growthunfortunately in water stressed situations on a global basis. It's not just located to traditionally water stress regions like the Middle East or North Africa. This is happening in Europe. This is happening in Australia. This is happening in Asia, China included, and this is happening even here in Ontario, where freshwater is generally considered to be in abundance. There are local regions where well water is becoming stressed, and manufacturing is limited and almost bottleneck by their ability to access that fresh water. So I think from a global perspective, this market is difficult to overstate the opportunity,

SH: Simply put, how does your sales stream work?

HH: So we use a very well worn out pathway. We look for opportunities where people have stress. We work with channel partners where people are already aggregating the waste streams. We work with them, and we get samples. We do the basic analysis. We sayour technology can go from here to here in terms of your water treatment and most people are like, you can reclaim 80 or 90% of my volume in fresh water. Yes, we can and that usually gets them very interested, that leads to paid for pilot trials, where that's a revenue generation source for us and then we move to early commercial phase, whether that's a sidestream pilot trial which the client would pay for or direct scale-up and installation under this what we call the build own operate model that described earlier.

SH: What’s the long-term strategy for the company moving into 2021 and beyond, and what retail and institutional investors should be looking out for?

HH: Wellretail investors and institutional investors and any investors should be looking at to make our targets and our goals, but what I think they should look through is a little bit more under the hood. Are we expanding in different sectors? We can target not only industrial manufacturing we can target some types of municipal targets such as landfill leachate. We can work with other channel partners. They should be looking for the growth of our business throughout a number of sales channels because that's only going to lead to broader and broader traction. We've already had international sales where we've licensed the technology to an Indian wastewater equipment manufacturer, 4% of the world's freshwater 19% of the world's population. There's a huge opportunity there with massive manufacturing that supplies the West Europe and North Americawith raw goods. So they should be looking for that type fundamental growth beyond just a sales numberwhich we’ll achieve as well but it's not a single metric.

SH: Can you tell our audience a little bit about your corporate management and board teams, along with the experience and innovative ideas they bring to the wastewater remediation space?

HH: So we've got a balance I think, both on the board of directorsas well as the management. Let’s start with the management.Myself andour COO, I've worked in different industries. I've been successful in very different sectors, and I think that's because we break rules. We come in and we look at the situation and we say, you know what? That traditional way of thinking doesn't work. We balanced that with somebody on our engineering side who's gota deep background in delivering new technologies into the wastewater treatment space and between that team, we're able to balance and focus and get a razor-sharp delivery pathway into the engineering space for our technology. Our board members are similar. That includes sitting in on our board is the inventor of the basic technology, Phillip Jessup from Queens University and he continues to improve the technology over and over. We're looking at entering all sorts of different sectors beyond just the waste treatment. We're looking at concentrating feed streams that have value including in thefood and beverage industry, the mining industry, the lithium capture industry. So we're really exercising the technology beyond just treating waste.

SH: What makes the company and its technology such a good investment?

HH: We'll go back to some of the things I've said on the technology side. I said in the beginning, it is simple, it is elegant, but it is clever and proprietary. So I think those types of things on the technology side make it a good investment on the implementation side and the execution side. I think we've got a great balance of people who have taken technologies from a few months, from a bench scale into full commercial reality multiple times. I've worked for two companies that have successful exits different sectors. Dr. Wayne Maddever, our COO, has had multiple turnaround experiences. We know how to take a technology from a beginning stage into full commercialization.

SH: And finally, Howie, if there’s anything I’ve overlooked please feel free to elaborate.

HH: Thank you very much, Dave. That's a unique opportunity but here's something that I've learned…I'll pass a little bit of mine. I entered this company as somebody who was really excited by the technology and really excited by the utility of it. That that's what I do. What's grown on me in the last three years is the impact that somebody can have on a company like this on a societal benefitreally dealing with some challenging wastewater. When you sit down, and you realize that really what people do is they take wastewater and they boil it today. They put it down a deep well disposal hole and hope that it doesn't come back, or they actually incinerate it. So I find that's crazy. You don't get to reuse the water. You lose it forever. You use a massive amount of energy to deal with that and you pump an enormous amount of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Why not reuse the energy or the water over and over again andyou know what? The calculations show that we shouldn't be able to power this with solar power. So solar thermal power should allow us to generate all the energy we need. Somake a commercial success that's important but do it in a way that solves the environmental problem as well. We can do both.

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FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a paid article produced by Stockhouse Publishing.

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