Major urban centers are notorious for poor air quality and polluted waterways due to runoffs from industrial and human cycles. Numerous economic sectors are not incentivized to limit polluted waste or establish methods for discarding their waste appropriately. Like most countries around the world, Mexico is grappling with how to improve the air and water quality in dense population settings. According to the World Bank, air pollution in Mexico is responsible for one in every seventeen deaths (5.9%) and is now ranked as the eighth largest cause of death in the country.
ALIS, Algae Innovation Solutions, has assembled a team of scientists, architects, and designers to tackle the issue of air and water pollution in Mexico. ALIS uses microalgae biotechnology to clean the waste emitted from industrial processes. The process naturally filters polluted water through algae, which harnesses the power of sunlight and photosynthesis, to create runoff that is safe to enter waterways or be reused again. In addition to being an environmentally sustainable solution, algae filtration is cheap and has the potential to generate jobs around the globe.
Their process is based on microbiology and photosynthesis. They use waste water from different industries that get dumped into the rivers. This water is contaminated with nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants. They then pull air from the atmosphere and inject it into their system, basically cleaning the water. This turns the contaminants into high value biomass; proteins, amino acids and high volume molecules. They then extract all of the biomass from the clean water and filter the water and reuse it. By using waste water in their process, they save a lot of money. They work in a circular economy, where waste is turned into valuable natural products.
Their main goal is to create a positive impact in the environment with something that is natural and can also generate a new economy. They hope to generate a new economy by creating green jobs that can add value to their city and develop business models that contribute by enhancing life quality. The company’s goal is to have a positive environmental impact while still developing a commercial side of their business. This will be achieved by using affordable and high value biomass that comes out of cleaning the water and turning it into natural products. Another goal of theirs is to develop a business model that can be replicated in different countries contributing environmental and economic growth. This would allow them to expand their business and help other cities to control pollution issues.
The main challenges were faced during the initial phase of their development as a company. The founders of ALIS had a passion and lots of research experience that allowed them to know how to tackle the issue of pollution. The problem for them was how to create and define their business product. This lack of scope made it hard for them to convince investors and future clients as they thought that they were making up their work, and that what they wanted to do was impossible. They realized that they had to shift their mindset to start understanding how to grow a company as businessmen instead of only looking into scientific reasoning. They also struggled with convincing the society of the benefits of using algae in products for consumption. They started a campaign to convince and explain to people that algae can create high value products and that the research of algae is essential as it has a huge growth potential and many of the benefits of it are still underexplored.
So far, Alis has cleaned 5 million liters of water with small models of units. They created a social program to educate about biotechnology and what it can do for a society. This is a big part of their mission because they want everyone to know about the benefits of their work and why it is important. They are doing work in the development of sustainable cities, making a positive impact in Monterrey, Mexico. ALIS was also recently selected as the best water quality project in Latin America by the Latin America Green Awards.
ALIS is currently fundraising to build their new plant. Their main mission right now is to have algae in every program that they can. This is imperative to them because of all of the benefits that come from algae, like the fact that they can produce bioplastics that have the potential of eliminating single use plastic. ALIS also wants to expand and add pharmaceutical research to their projects with the aim to create low cost natural medicine from microalgae. There is a lot of potential to use products from microalgae in humans to cure diseases, eliminating the use of heavy chemical compounds that can be harmful for the environment and for human health. The processes used right now in the pharmaceutical industry are highly polluting, so they want to translate it over to microbiology in order to make it more green. They are always aiming to generate a positive impact, and are very happy to be working with microbiology and nanotechnology as it is a passion shared by all the members of the company.