When in Mexico City, using rainwater can save your life

Last week in Mexico City, I got to discover new innovations, which triggered back my inspiration!  Did you know that Mexico City, this giant urban territory, used to be a lake but it was drained by the Spanish in the 16th Century? Yet, today, it is facing one of the most serious water shortages in an urban space but fascinating projects are being launched by civil organizations to help people access water. One of them. Isla Urbana, has developed a system that collects rainwater and purifies it for drinking purposes and more generally for all other uses in the house, and it is equal or better quality than tap water in Mexico City!

Designing for communities

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Is drinking rainwater innovative? It was probably one of the most ancient ways of surviving, but today with pollution and air contamination it has become dangerous. Thinking of sustainable solutions to water shortages in Mexico City, the team at Isla Urbana came up with a system designed to harvest rainwater and purify it.

 

Today, 36% of families in Mexico City do not have adequate access to water and spend up to 20% of their incomes to buy trucked water. United Nations

A team of young engineers, urbanists and ecologist decided to come together and develop a new industrial design system for rainwater harvesting: a blue tank collects and filters rainwater which is then pumped into a house. The household system is $1,100 for the complete installation and $150 annual maintenance costs.

The average harvesting in the city for a 60 m2 roof is 45,000 Liters (11,888 gallons) per year to harvest de average rainfall in the city of 750mm per year, which covers an average of 5 to 8 months of water needsRenata Fenton, Director of Design, Isla Urbana

Beware of the “megacorte”

This will definitely be useful next week, when the public water service will be completely suspended for three days (this is the “megacorte” or “mega cute”). Starting 31 October 2018, 13 boroughs of Mexico City and 13 municipalities of México state will be completely dry. This is to allow maintenance and repair work on the Cutzamala pipe.

Earning trust for the future

So far, and after 10 years, Isla Urbana has installed about 8,700 systems, which provide water to more than 52,000 users. The kits are designed to provide different types of water quality (from water for toilets and washing up to purified water for drinking), for different types of buildings and roof sizes and for both the urban and rural context.  

The real challenge now is to change the community’s perception of rainwater, teach them to trust the rainwater collected, to use it. Renata Fenton

Also, by storing increasing volumes of water, families can then become completely independent from unsustainable sources of water. The empowering nature of the benefit is crucial.

What makes this project so innovative is its realistic nature. Isla Urbana does not aim at solving the water issue in Mexico City in one day, it aims at providing solutions to everyday problems.

 

4 findings from Startupfest 2018

After a first experience in 2017, Innovation Montreal was excited to discover the new location for Startupfest 2018 and experience the magic of networking! Here are our four impressions from last week.

1. A new location for more dynamic opportunities

DSC_0355.jpgThe festival was happening at Parc de Dieppe, at the extreme end of the Cite-du-Havre peninsula, with an exceptional view over Montreal Old Port. From this location, the opening ceremony of Startupfest, on 11 July, coincided with the traditional summer fireworks in Montreal and provided a festive atmosphere to the launch. To access the venue, guests could arrive either by boat, bus, car or bike. This unprecedented venue encouraged small-scale networking opportunities for sure.

 

 

2. More premium fests, more targeted content

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This year, the festival was divided into 9 specific mini festivals so that startups, organizations, investors, could meet with their specific communities more efficiently. For example, ScaleupFest was dedicated to providing advice and knowledge on initial investment and growing. ArtupFest aimed at gathering artists, designers and all members of the creative community to discuss ways of improving society.

3. A contest for impact-driven startups

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The Quartier de l’innovation and MTL Newtech organized a pitch contest for startups that are driven by social impact considerations. Over the three days of the events, entrepreneurs got the opportunity to present their projects to a jury with the possibility of winning prizes in cash but also a promotional video produced and disseminated as well as coaching from MTL NewTech. They could either pick a technology (from those mentioned on the colourful cards) or explain how their startup impacted positively on the community. On Thursday 12 July, Aligo Innovation was part of the jury and offered the opportunity to develop already existing technologies or to help inventors and researchers move from research to development.

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4. A “young” entrepreneur with a vision for a greener future

img-2313.jpgThrough the brain dates system, Innovation MTL was able to meet with Gaston Beaulieu, a “young” entrepreneur of 72 years old who decided, after he retired, to develop a new concept of eco-energetic greenhouse that grows plants and vegetables without electricity nor water: Gaïa Écosystèmes. Through a concept of biomimicry, this engineer with experience in the aerospace industry invented and tested his inventions over the past 8 years. His is now ready to present his concept to investors and potential partners for prototyping. If his tests are correct, this greenhouse could provide 330,000 kg of vegetables annually. We will definitely be following his ambitious project!

7 findings from the 7th edition of C2 Montreal

What an exciting, exhausting, thrilling and inspiring 3 days… We did not know where to start, with all these conferences, workshops, networking opportunities, experiences. We tried to experience it at 200%. Here are our highlights from the most popular, selective and inspiring event that happens in Montreal.

1- To grow, you need to open your mind

IMG-1205.JPGThe closing ceremony of C2 Montreal was long awaited by all. For this final act, world-famous rapper and weed entrepreneur, Snoop Dog came to talk about the blooming cannabis industry in Canada. As C2 aims at helping “established and aspiring leaders unlock their creativity in order tobetter face disruption and change”, mentioning cannabis growth opportunities was daring but undeniably adapted!

2- Empathy will save us all

DSC_0282.JPGScientist turned robot maker, Christine Sunu showed us that robots could have a heart. Yes, they can make us feel real emotions, especially Mostly, her fluffy creation that makes sounds and purr like a cat. For mentally and socially challenged people, these robots can trigger emotions, feelings and empathy that even humans would not be able to express.

3- Design your solutions 

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Ideate for Impact was the place to be if you wanted to create something tangible out of your 3 days. This series of workshops allowed participants to design a real solution to make an impact on the ground. During the “Healthy Cities” lab, we learned how to articulate a design challenge, frame prototyping ideas, and implement them. This was a unique opportunity to help real people (Mark Brand and his team) on their mission to bring the homeless community upward in Vancouver through Save on meats. 

4- Create with others

If you really want to bring something new to the world, you need to do it with others. Indeed, many inspirational speakers presented projects that were innovating because they were launched by a transversal and diverse team. Creativity came from the collision of their skills and personalities. Stéphane Garti is an artist and engineer that applies the tools of prototyping to dance and fashion projects. He founded Wearkit, a community of makers, coders, artists and designers contributing to open design.

5- Learn technology… or disappear

Stephanie.pngAgain, this was on the mouth of several influencers such as Stephanie Carullo, COO of Box and expert in scaling tech companies: if you want to change the culture in your company, you have to excel in technology because digital tools will allow you to work towards customer centricity, diversity and… privacy!

6- Protect your data

chelseaTalking about privacy… Regulations are starting to emerge, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect on 25 May in the European Union. But beyond regulations, there is an ethical and democratic aspect to that issue. We had the privilege of listening to transparency activist Chelsea Manning talk about how marketing has turned into a massive surveillance system where it is more than ever urgent to protect our data.

7- A penny for your thought?

reveri lab.jpgHave you heard of computer-brain interfaces? There are machines that allow researchers to read your minds or should we say, to “hack your brain”. At the “Reveries” lab, we got a glimpse of what happens in our minds through the use of neuro-technology. A unique visualisation of our thought patterns was offered to us after a set of electrodes was attached to our head. If today, these offer mysterious brain signals, tomorrow, tech giants like Facebook are working towards creating new devices around these computer-brain interfaces… for better or for worse!

 

5 findings from Day 1 at C2 Montreal 2018

Today was my first experience ever of C2 Montreal. If you have not heard of it, this is the most sought after event for innovation lovers in Montreal and in Canada. Here are some highlights of the first of three exciting days.

Founded by Sid Lee and Circle du Soleil, C2 – which stands for Commerce and Creativity – aims at reinventing the way international events are organized and making innovative ideas collide and burst into participants minds.

Recycling oysters shells into concrete and plastic

Introducing the “Visionary placemakers” session, Pauline Mure presented RaWMaterial, a company that works with oyster farmers and restaurants in the South of France to recycle oyster shells by designing new sustainable products: concrete for building new homes, plastic for making new toys.

Bringing love and empathy to architecture

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Then we traveled to Brazil with Guto Requena. This architect from Sao Paulo made a touching presentation of his background and how he decided to dedicate his life to triggering empathy in the city through design. His Love project combines design, science and technology to transform people’s emotions into products of daily life and including them in the process. Participants are asked to tell the love story of their lives and as they speak, data is drawn and processed by a software that creates, a graphic representation is drawn and finally, objects are fabricated using a 3D printer.

The youngest VR developer

img-1101.jpgAs part of the “6 under 16” presentations, we fell in love with young Sabarish Gnanamoorthy. With his brother, he launched The Knowledge Society to bring students between the age of 13 and 17 together to work on solving the world’s biggest problems through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Design thinking to make cities healthier

For the first time at C2, a 3-day program, “Ideate for Impact”, is designed to get participants to work on solving the world’s most pressing challenges collaborating with changemakers from around the world. Using empathy and design thinking tools, we are mobilized to design, prototype and construct a vision for how these isnights and tools can be taken back to four different businesses.

The initiative was developed by Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Design challenges were presented by four different organizations: 12.29, Mark Brand Inc., Youth Empowering Parents and Cohere.

Interactive debates around social innovation

social innovation.JPGAs part of the Montreal Summit on Innovation organized by UQAM and Quartier de l’innovation, we experienced the Conversation market on collaborating towards social impact. Using color codes, participants debated on the urgency for social actors – NGOs, governments, corporations – to work together towards solving problems and make a difference in the world.

Stay tuned for our favourite findings for day 2 and 3!

Making wine in the city to make Montreal greener

Veronique is leading the first urban wine grower project in Montreal, Vignes en Ville. From her sustainable energy to entrepreneurship, discover her journey to innovate urban agriculture.

A passion for nature, changing the world, and wine

Veronique Lemieux started her career in renewable energies with a background in international business. She always wanted to change the world and contribute to society. Being a young mum, she decided to step away and while taking care of her child, she started following classes in naturopathy and botany for three years.

Her passion for nature continued to develop and she took more classes in permaculture with the idea of creating a vegetable garden on her rooftop. In August 2016, she took part in the summer school in urban agriculture of the Laboratory on Urban Agriculture (AU-LAB) in Montreal, which had a huge impact in her life: she was not alone in her granola universe!

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(c) Rooftop Reds Facebook page

At the same time, Veronique started her own company specializing in the private import of natural and organic wines, Les Vins d’Epicure. As she was looking for ways to combines both her experiences, she discovered the work of Rooftop Reds, the world’s first commercially viable rooftop vineyard in Brooklyn, New York. After visiting their location, she was ready to move to the next level and presented her project to AU-LAB, it was the beginning of the “Vignes en Ville” adventure.

Growing Grapes as a way to make the city greener

Unlike Rooftop Reds, which is oriented towards making premium wine, Veronique wants to use vineyards and wine making as a social innovation tool. Growing vine plants is another way of promote Montreal green alleys. Going further, she wants to train city inhabitants to make this a community-level project.

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(c) Biopolis.ca

Of course, urban wine growing is also an experimental project that could benefit to the viticulture community. Veronique has initiated a partnership with the SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) to test the impact of Tricentris recycled glass on vineyards growing.

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Vine plants on the rooftop of Palais des Congres (c) Vignes en ville

Last summer, in 2017, 80 vine plants were set on the roof of Palais des Congres as a pilot and consequently, the SAQ announced in April 2018 that another project would be launched at its new headquarter in Montreal with 160 other vine plants. This 4-years long research study will help determine the evolution of rustic vine plants in an urban environment.

We are not focusing particularly on noble grape varieties but rather testing combinations with a learning purpose and using recycled glass powder is an innovative way of contributing to the circular economy.

Growing vines to make the city greener while having fun

Going further, Veronique wants to draw inspiration from other urban agriculture best practices around the world like the London-based Community Wine Making Schemethat has turned 850 kg of grapes into wine for London households since 2013.

My ultimate goal is to stimulate urban communities to get involved in the process: making their own wine, having fun in the process.

Indeed, there is already a tradition of making homemade wine in Montreal. It started in Little Italy with immigrants importing grapes from Italy and using a traditional technique. Veronique wants to go even further and promote balcony vineyards that would act like balcony gardens.

If you want to try the wine from Vignes en Ville and SAQ partnership, you will have to be patient as it will not be ready before 2022… in the meantime, you will soon be able to admire the plants at SAQ headquarter (Montreal East).

5 Montreal social innovation startups in urban agriculture

Last Friday we got to discover truly innovative startups at a 5@7 organized by Quintus, a communication agency dedicated to sustainable projects. This edition of Quintus@7 was dedicated to urban agriculture.

Quintus@7 are free networking events organized throughout the year by Quintus marketing. They highlight best practices in sustainable living. In 2018, five events will be organized focusing on how can we become change catalysts.

Stefany Chevalier, CEO of Quintus defined change catalysts as entities that work towards changing society with a social or environmental impact and that encourage consumption patterns that are innovative and sustainable. Quintus helps change catalyst to promote their activities through accessible communication tools – videos, events, communication campaigns.

“Our intention is not to get people to consume more but to consume more sustainably.”

Among the great initiatives that we discovered last Friday were: 

Crickstart & La Mexicoise, two startups that are changing eating habits by promoting the use of insect-based products. Crickstart’s mission is to open people’s minds with flavourful products made out of crickets. Yes this is pretty unusual but it is also one of the most sustainable – crickets are used in their entirety with zero waste, unlike in traditional livestock farming and meat processing, and healthy ingredient – the protein in crickets is rich with amino acids.

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Daniel from Crickstart and Christelle from La Mexicoise © Quintus

Chicza, a 100% natural, certified organic, biodegradable and sustainable chewing gum ever made. It is made out of chicle, a natural gum extracted from tall Chicozapote tree followingMayan traditions. This is truly innovative as most gums on the market carry no more than 5-7% of gum base, if any at all – the rest is plastics (artificial, petrol-based polymers). If you really want to get scared, you can watch “The Dark Side of the Chew” a TEDx talk by Andrew Nisker on the subject. We tasted the mint flavoured Chicza and really liked it. Other flavours include Lime, Cinnamon and Mixed Berries.

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Chicza team © Quintus

Mamie Clafoutis– to be fair, we already knew Mamie Clafoutis’s products (traditional French bakery) but it was very inspiring to listen to its co-founder Joseph Sabatier talking about organic flour and organic bakeries in Quebec. Did you know that only 2% of Quebec bread is made out of organic flour? And Mamie Clafoutis is part of that small figure. As such, it is a real innovator and pioneer in the sustainable food industry in Canada.

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Joseph. Founder of Mamie Clafoutis © Quintus

Vrac sur Roues, a zero waste online grocery store with bike delivery. Launched by ambitious 21-year old Simon, this new player in the sustainable urban market allows you to buy dry and liquid goods delivered by bike to your door and poured in your containers. Simon is a carpenter but he wants to bring more than wood furniture to society – as the sole manager and employee in his startup, he takes care of all aspects (website, order preparation, delivery) and has assumed all cost with his job as a carpenter, not relying on subsidies or loans. We found his passion and mission truly inspiring.

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Simon, Founder of Vrac sur Roues © Quintus

The next Quintus@7 will be held on June 8 and focus on eco-living and ecotourism. You can already get free tickets.

 

Cook, eat and do not leave any crumb with A dévorer!

Montreal is thriving with innovative ideas to fight against food waste. A dévorer is the new player in town. It offers special food kits to buy at your local supermarket to prevent products from perishing.

Chloe, an electrical engineer, did not plan on becoming an entrepreneur in the food industry and yet, after her MBA, she decided that she wanted to do something useful. Knowing that every Canadian family throws $28 worth of food every day (yes, that’s $1500 per year), food waste was a perfect challenge to tackle. But A dévorer has another social aspect: it helps retailers avoid losses while strengthening the link between retailers and consumers.

Chloe a devorer

After improving her project in startup incubators (Entreprism 2016 at HEC Montreal) and pitching it in entrepreneurship competitions (Mouvement Novae 2018), A dévorer was ready to conquer Montreal.

Not just another meal kit

Yes, meal kits have become quite trendy but most of them are based on a delivery model: you order a kit of fresh vegetables or fresh products and get delivered every week. A dévorer sells kits in supermarkets so that retailers can benefit from the deal.

It’s not a meal kit, it’s an “anti-food-waste kit”.

The process is very simple: when doing your grocery at your local supermarket, you can find A dévorer kits with all the products required to cook a specific meal in less than 30 minutes. Kits are packed in a minimalist environment-friendly recycled material.

a devorerRecipes are focused towards healthier eating habits. They will change regularly and adapt to consumers’ preferences and feedback. Kits are offered for a recipe for 4 people and always include a vegetarian option.

Changing perceptions, innovating habits

“We want to get consumers involved in the process: they can solve a real environmental problem in a recreational way.”

It is common to consider perishable products that are close to the expiration date as “old” and less fresh. But they are just ready to eat and even better: they are discounted!  The kit system allows to make these products more attractive and to show how cooking can be a fun, quick and easy process.

Instead of choosing ready-to-eat meals, you can eat fresh products and spend 30 minutes of your time in your kitchen, discovering a new recipe.

A pilot project in Montreal

A dévorer has managed to secure a partnership with one of the leaders in Canada food retail: Provigo. As of April 23, you can find the first line of kits at Provigo Eric Boivin, near metro Crémazie.