Mexican startup won a challenge to fight water scarcity

The Softys Water Challenge is a competition that award startups fighting against water scarcity.

An initiative brought together entrepreneurs to find a solution to one of the biggest problems of the near future: water scarcity. The Mexican Startup “Isla Urbana” won the first place.

Despite 70% of the earth is cover with water, only 3% is freshwater, becoming a rare and crucial resource for survival. 

Currently, more than one billion people lack access to fresh water. Another two billion people have problems accessing water for more than one month at the year. This problem could grow up.

According to the Mexican National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua in Spanish), in Latin America, 77 million people lack access to water. However, the region has made huge advances in recent decades. 

The Softys Water Challenge is a competition that seeks to continue with these advances. After seven months, the three winners of the challenge met an initiative led by Softys in alliance with the UC Innovation Center and the Amulén Foundation, which since January has brought together entrepreneurs with solutions that provide access to drinking water in Latin America.

Isla Urbana, winner of the Softys Water Challenge

The first place went to Isla Urbana, a solution from Mexico, which designs and installs rainwater harvesting systems on the roofs of houses, providing an alternative source of drinking water in vulnerable communities efficiently and sustainably. This undertaking will receive additional financing from Softys to implement its solution in a community lacking drinking water in Latin America.

In the opinion of Nabani Vera, Director of Communications of Isla Urbana, the simplicity and effectiveness of ecotechnology that gives each family the ability to self-supply water without depending on any external agent or actor, was the differentiating element that made them worthy of the first place. “We are really happy. Although the awards and recognitions are not the objectives of our project, they serve a lot to confirm that things are being done correctly, as well as inspiring us to continue doing the work with dedication, passion, and joy ”, he said.

The second place in the contest was obtained by Remote Waters, a startup that provides a technology for the purification of the sea or underground water, transforming it into potable, clean, and safe water, for communities with limited access to this resource. It consists of a purifier that is easy to operate and transport, which treats contaminated water or salty water, which gives an effective response, for example, to communities that today are supplied with water through wells or norias, where water often requires additional treatment.

Meanwhile, the third-place is for Watergen, an Israeli venture with a presence in Chile two years ago, and whose solution consists of a device that produces drinking water from generators that take advantage of the humidity of the environment, transforming it into potable and purified water, being able to provide water at the household and/or community level.

Thus, after having received more than 500 applications, where 85 projects from 31 countries fulfilled 100% the contest rules, and where 19 semifinalist projects were accelerated thanks to the support of the UC Innovation Center, Softys Water Challenge ends its 2020 version through a virtual award ceremony transmitted by streaming.

The jury was made up of Cristóbal Somarriva, Softys Latam Legal Manager; Jorge Matte, President of Fundación Amulén; Conrad Von Igel, Executive Director of the UC Innovation Center; Ignacio Lira, Deputy Manager of Public Affairs of Empresas CMPC; Marcello Basani, specialist in water and sanitation at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Maria de los Ángeles Romo, Executive Director of Startup Chile; Hiroshi Wald, Executive Director of Austral Capital Partners and Zoraida Sánchez, Coordinator of the Access to Water Program of Fundación Avina, Peru.

Softys Water Challenge is an initiative that connects with the efforts that Softys – CMPC’s subsidiary of hygiene and personal care products – is making in water efficiency, risk management associated with water, and work with the supply chain, among others. In the same way, it is directly related to the objective of promoting the development of local communities, a commitment that is part of the Sustainability Strategy 2020 – 2023 of Softys, which in turn contributes to the goals established in the Corporate Strategy of Empresas CMPC.

“They were months of intense work, where we were finally able to identify the three solutions that best pursue the purpose of the Softys Water Challenge, which is to bring drinking water to poor localities, and now more so in times when hygiene and health are so important. That is the purpose that inspires us at Softys, we deliver the best care that people need every day, and at every stage of their lives, ”said Nicole Sansone, manager of Personal Care and Sustainability Latam at Softys.

For his part, Conrad von Igel, Executive Director of the UC Innovation Center, added that “the entrepreneurs who made up the first generation of Softys Water Challenge did a remarkable job, where we were able to learn about 85 technological solutions from the five continents, applicable in different contexts of drinking water shortage. By promoting culture and an environment for innovation and entrepreneurship, from the university in conjunction with the private sector and civil society, we can impact people’s daily lives thanks to technology, providing access to this vital resource ”.

Verónica Puga, Executive Director of Fundación Amulén, explained that “we are proud to be part of the Softys Water Challenge, a unique opportunity to bring together innovations from around the world