Variolytics receives seven-figure seed funding for climate-neutral wastewater treatment plants

December 7, 2022

Proprietary measurement technology and AI-based process control to avoid greenhouse gases in wastewater treatment.

  • Seven-figure seed funding for patented measurement technology and AI-based process optimisation.
  • High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), FTTF and Dr Jörg Gebhardt as well as other angel investors are participating in the financing round.
  • Key technology for wastewater treatment plants to meet their climate targets.
  • Variolytics system (EmiCo – Emission Control) already implemented in wastewater treatment plants.

Stuttgart, 15.11.2022Germany’s almost 10,000 municipal wastewater treatment plants consume around 4,400 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, which makes them one of the largest electricity consumers. This is equivalent to the electricity needs of 900,000 four-person households. Moreover, the greenhouse gases nitrous oxide and methane are produced during wastewater treatment and contribute significantly to the plant’s total emissions. It is estimated that wastewater treatment plants emit about as many greenhouse gases as the global aviation industry. But there is good news for this sector. With their new “Emission Control” system, the Stuttgart-based technology company Variolytics can reduce up to 50% of the total emissions of wastewater treatment plants. Furthermore, through an AI-based control system, the wastewater process is dynamically controlled and not only reduces greenhouse gases, but also energy and chemical consumption.

Plants cleaning wasted water account for approximately 2% of global CO2 emissions. Variolytics can halve this via its worldwide unique measuring method! Therefore, it was and is a no-brainer to invest in Variolytics.

Dr. Katharina Peters, Investment Manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds

For biological wastewater treatment using the activated sludge process, tanks are gassed with oxygen. If the bacteria in the basin receive too little oxygen, they cannot optimally decompose the dissolved organic contaminants. However, too much gassing does not lead to better degradation, but only to higher energy costs for the plant operators. Another complicating factor is that both “too little” and “too much” gassing results in nitrous oxide. This gas is particularly greenhouse-active, 273 times more compared to CO2. Finding the “golden mean” and avoiding the production of this gas is therefore critical. Variolytics’ patented measurement technology monitors the formation of climate-damaging gases in the aeration basins of the sewage treatment plant and helps to reduce them. For this purpose, the gassing, but also other “adjusting screws”, of the aeration tanks are instantly adjusted by an intelligent control system for an optimal microbial decomposition of the organic matter on the basis of the measured values.

Since our pre-seed investment, the Variolytics team has not only made excellent technical progress, but has also received and already implemented the first orders to optimise wastewater treatment in sewage plants. Another promising application is the use of the sensor system solution to increase production in single-use bioreactors in the pharmaceutical industry in combination with proprietary AI algorithms.

Tobias Schwind, Managing Partner at FTTF

The EU has set itself the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. In Germany, the Bundes-Klimaschutzgesetz (Federal Climate Protection Act) of 12 December 2019 came into force (BGBl.IS.2513), which provides for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, by a total of 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. Wastewater treatment is included in the Waste Management and Miscellaneous sector and has to reduce its emissions to 5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents by 2030. With its technology, Variolytics offers an effective way to achieve these goals.

The potential of our system solution for sewage treatment plants (EmiCo – Emission Control) is currently being demonstrated in pilot projects in England and Stuttgart. Our plan is to go into production in 2023 to offer our technology to customers across Europe. The fresh capital from the seed financing is essential for this and will enable us to achieve our growth targets.

Johann Barlach, CFO of Variolytics

The seed investment from HTGF, FTTF and business angels is a big step towards scaling for Variolytics. In the coming year, Variolytics wants to expand its production and grow strongly in the European market. From currently 9 employees, the team wants to grow to 12 in the next months. The start-up wants to put a special focus on the areas of production, service/maintenance and sales.

Founding team of Variolytics: from left to right Dr. Matthias Stier (CEO), Johann Barlach (CFO) and Steffen Goerner (CTO)

About Variolytics
Variolytics is a Stuttgart-based technology company focused on measurement technologies and process optimization.  Dr. Matthias Stier (CEO), Johann Barlach (CFO) and Steffen Goerner (CTO) founded the company in March 2020, with the aim of making the invisible visible through innovative measurement technologies and thus contributing to a more sustainable society. The technology is used at wastewater treatment plants to monitor greenhouse gases in the wastewater treatment process and provide recommendations for actions to avoid them.

Dr. Matthias Stier, CEO
T: +49 711 2525 9620

About Jörg Gebhardt
Cologne-based physicist Dr. Jörg Gebhardt looks back on a professional career spanning more than 30 years. He gained his first experience with AI in the early 1990s as part of the fuzzy wave that was sweeping across Europe at the time. In 2005, he founded aquatune, a company that develops optimization systems for the water and wastewater industry based on Artificial Neural Networks and Genetic Optimizers. After more than 40 successfully implemented projects, he sold aquatune GmbH to the American company Xylem, for which he subsequently worked as managing director for another 3 years. In the meantime, he is again self-employed as a consultant for AI applications. In 2021, he invested in the startup company Variolytics as a business angel and actively accompanies the business development by means of consulting and training.

KI-Beratung Dr. Gebhardt
T.: +49 6430 927-8613

About FTTF – Fraunhofer Technologie-Transfer Fonds (FTTF) GmbH
FTTF finances start-ups that use Fraunhofer technology. As a strong entrepreneurial partner, up to 250 TEUR are invested in the pre-seed phase and up to 5 MEUR in further financing rounds. In addition, the fund supports with extensive start-up experience and a broad investor network. The fund has a volume of 60 MEUR, already more than 30 portfolio companies and is supported by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the European Investment Fund (EIF). 

Fraunhofer Technologie-Transfer Fonds (FTTF) GmbH

About High-Tech Gründerfonds
The seed investor High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) finances tech start-ups with growth potential and has supported over 680 start-ups since 2005. With the launch of its fourth fund, HTGF now has over 1.3 billion euros under management. Its team of experienced investment managers and start-up experts support young companies with expertise, entrepreneurial spirit and passion. HTGF’s focus is on high-tech start-ups in the fields of digital tech, industrial tech, life sciences, chemistry and related business areas. To date, external investors have injected more than 4 billion euros of capital into the HTGF portfolio via more than 1,900 follow-on financing rounds. In addition, HTGF has already successfully sold shares in more than 160 companies.
Fund investors in this public-private partnership include the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, KfW Capital and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft along with over 40 companies from a wide range of industries.

Media contact
High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH
Stefanie Grüter, Partner Communications & Relations
T.: +49 228 – 82300 – 188

Contact Investor
High-Tech Gründerfonds Management GmbH
Dr. Katharina Peters, Investment Manager

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