AI helps fight climate change: BC cleantech company's innovative solution to water scarcity

Better Together is a collaboration between Coast Capital and Business in Vancouver to celebrate programs, partnerships, and individuals making positive change in our communities.

Pani CEO Devesh Bharadwaj at Spiral Beach, Victoria, British Columbia

Growing up in New Delhi, India, Devesh Bharadwaj saw firsthand how access to necessary resources in his home country was a luxury, rather than a right.

As a result, he became passionate about solving the world’s biggest problems and making a global impact through innovative technology.

Driven by this ambition, Devesh made the bold decision to leave his home and family in India at age 18 to pursue an education in STEM, where he could not only gain the knowledge necessary to achieve this goal, but also connect and collaborate with thought leaders in the field. Stepping on a plane for the very first time, he moved to Canada to complete his post-secondary degree at the University of Victoria in the Faculty of Engineering.

Now, he is the CEO and co-founder of Pani Energy, an innovative startup working to help the world solve water scarcity and combat climate change. 

In his first year at UVic, Devesh researched the top problems affecting modern society, finding the late Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley’s list of the top 10 problems for humanity, which leads with energy and water. Access to fresh water is a global crisis, with 785 million people lacking access to a safe water supply. As the quality of water continues to decline, more complex treatment processes are required, resulting in the water industry becoming an enormous contributor to global carbon emissions from the increased energy consumption required to effectively treat the supply for safe consumption.

Inspired to solve this critical issue, Devesh started research and development to find solutions that would be adaptable, non-disruptive, and would help work towards the end goal of net zero emissions for this industry. Ultimately, he founded Pani Energy in 2017, a few months before graduation. 

While fresh water is a multi-billion dollar industry, the sector has been underserved by digital and advanced technology. Pani Energy is working to bridge this gap by providing a cloud-based machine learning software platform to elevate the efficiency of industrial and city scale desalination and wastewater treatment plants. Pani’s award-winning AI Coach™ aggregates and ingests data from the plant, then analyzes, visualizes, and instructs operators how to optimize their plant’s performance, saving time, resources, and ultimately the environment as a result of reduced energy emissions. 


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Aerial view of complex and organized industrial facility

It was thanks in large part to the University of Victoria Coast Capital Innovation Centre that Devesh was able to secure the resources and mentorship he needed to launch his startup and grow Pani Energy into the success it is today. The Coast Capital Innovation Centre is UVic’s on-campus early stage startup incubator that provides fundamental support, tools, mentorship, and space on campus to support entrepreneurs in taking their business concepts from idea to launch. “[The Centre] nurtures your passions, becomes invested in the problems you want to solve, and works to help you achieve your goals,” Devesh says. 

Through the Innovation Centre, Devesh was introduced to mentors who became fully immersed in the team and put in both time and money to make Devesh’s big idea a reality. Devesh not only gained office space to move Pani’s operations out of his garage, but financial support from grants and awards, allowing Pani to pay employees, purchase equipment, and develop a prototype.

Devesh was also introduced to a community and support system of other hustling entrepreneurs, giving Pani’s team the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals working to solve big problems too. It’s because of this strong foundation and extensive support that today, Victoria-based Pani Energy employs 25 people and has started commercializing its technology in Canada, the U.S., India, the Middle East, and Singapore.


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Pani CEO Devesh Bharadwaj (center) and COO Craig Thomson (3rd from right) receiving Imagine H2O Asia's Demo Day award, Singapore

Devesh’s vision for the future of Pani Energy is to help decarbonize the water sector by accelerating plants around the world towards net zero, thus having an enormous impact on global carbon emissions. He is excited to continue to grow the company and see it make a difference on the most pressing issues for society while providing employment opportunities for its community. Currently, Pani is hiring for multiple positions to join their fast-paced team and help make this vision a reality and Devesh encourages everyone, no matter what their background, sector, or industry, to find ways to contribute because “this is too important a problem to fail.”

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