VertoX Labs indexes water quality in ponds, lakes and reservoirs through its time- and cost-efficient robotic monitoring device.
VertoX Labs’ monitoring device collects water samples from water bodies, analyzes them and transmits the results, with the aim of supporting clean-up efforts and stopping further degradation. (Photograph by kataleewan intarachote/Shutterstock.com)
India is home to over 2.4 million open water bodies like ponds, tanks, lakes and reservoirs. Polluted water bodies can negatively impact the health and livelihood of communities that live around them. Frequent, real-time measurements of water quality is crucial to promote and support clean-up efforts and stop further degradation of water bodies.
VertoX Labs, a Bhubaneswar-based start-up founded by Salomi Dabral, has developed a robotic device to sample water across open water bodies. It was part of the 17th cohort at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi’s Nexus Start-up Hub.
The device collects water samples from different locations, analyzes them and transmits the results via cell phone network. Dabral says this is faster and cheaper than collecting samples manually.
‘People, planet and profits’
Dabral graduated from the Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and worked for three years in the information technology industry. When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, she stepped back and decided to create a social enterprise in sustainable development. Dabral wanted to focus on the “triple bottom line—people, planet and profits,” she says.
Over nine years, says Dabral, a shift in government policy toward providing more support for small, market-based, and technology-based start-ups encouraged her to become an entrepreneur. She founded VertoX Labs in 2021.
Dabral says she built the company without private investments. For the first year, she financed the start-up with her own money and with some help from her family. She later received a grant from the Vellore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu, and funding from some central and state government agencies to develop the robotic water monitoring device. The device is being tried out in a pilot stage.
The Nexus impetus
In 2023, Dabral was accepted into the nine-week Nexus incubator program at the American Center New Delhi. She underwent business management training, focusing on how to design a basic business model and pitch it to potential investors.
The program’s workshops, case studies and practical exercises to understand the market have been helpful, says Dabral. “We received a lot of value from the mentors and the trainers,” she says. The program also facilitated exchange of ideas and peer-to-peer experiences with the other small company founders in her cohort, adds Dabral.
With the support of trainers, Dabral created a social media marketing plan to promote her company online. She hopes to start selling the water sampling device by 2024 to pond and brackish-water fisheries, municipalities responsible for public water bodies, and companies that need water pollution management support.
The start-up has also developed a prototype robotic device to harvest water hyacinth, an invasive plant species that can clog waterways and reduce their economic value. VertoX Labs is now working on ways to use the harvested water hyacinth and turn it into something valuable, like handicrafts, fabric, paper, biofuel or compost. Along with developing technology, VertoX Labs also works with government agencies to support clean water standards. “We are looking forward to a future where water quality indexes will be as familiar as air quality indexes,” says Dabral.
Burton Bollag is a freelance journalist living in Washington, D.C.
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