Acknowledging waterways as living, breathing taonga (treasures), AquaWatch (formerly RiverWatch) captures and monitors water quality data, providing a robust and frictionless way to listen to the heartbeat of water – one of the world’s most critical assets. Making the invisible clear, the team live out tiaki (care for people, place and planet) every day.
Showcasing New Zealand’s capabilities in technology, science, and innovation, AquaWatch is helping the world to understand and manage water quality for future generations. Making its first global export to Inland Fisheries in Ireland in 2022, the values led organisation has made a name for itself in local and international circles for its ‘uniquely New Zealand’ combination of waterway sustainability and guardianship.
AquaWatch’s solution, the Waka, is a floating unit with a shell made out of 70% recycled milk bottles and containing five sensors measuring pH, temperature, turbidity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen within the water. The Waka was born out of the need for a functional approach to monitoring water quality, ensuring no damage to the environment it is monitoring.
Chief of Growth Abi Croutear-Foy says AquaWatch aims to equip people, including regulatory bodies, farmers, iwi, hapu, and international customers alike, with the tools to work as kaitiaki (custodians) of their rivers and streams.
“Following the degradation of their local Pahaoa River with refuse from stock grazing upstream, our founders Grant and James Muir, were driven to build a solution that shines a light on the issue of water health, capturing real time data to gauge any impact from efforts to restore water quality,” says Croutear-Foy.
“Our work is about measuring the human impact on waterways, and our belief is that you can’t improve what you can’t see by making assumptions. AquaWatch aims to remove any assumptions and create a space where water guardianship can thrive.
“Our whole purpose is to drive community engagement with water health by connecting ourselves and future generations to the natural environment. The way Grant and James thought to do this was by showing our people the real-time data, and educating them on what that data means.”
Proud to work alongside local Iwi, AquaWatch follows the Te Mana o te Wai hierarchy of obligations. The first is to protect the health and wellbeing of the waters, the second is to provide water to meet essential human needs, and the final commitment involves enabling other recreational use of water.
Embracing kaitiakitanga (guardianship) has seen AquaWatch form a deeper understanding of why water health is essential, knowledge the organisation uses to inform all business practices.
As regulation and marketing pressures demand practical solutions to managing water quality, AquaWatch saw the opportunity for the FernMark to reinforce the credibility behind its guardianship approach to water health. As the social enterprise deepens its investment in international markets – including a strong focus on Australia currently – Croutear-Foy says the FernMark and the national values it represents help convey the story of why New Zealand technology can have a deep, positive impact around the world.
“We’re a relatively new member of the FernMark Licence Programme, but from what we’ve already seen, the formal accreditation has the ability to open doors and take the conversation a step or two further.”
AquaWatch will be showcased this year as part of Fieldays’ new Sustainability Hub, alongside the Ministry for the Environment, Toitū Envirocare and Wilderlab, reinforcing its roots as a farm developed product, and contextualising the impact of water quality and monitoring technology that can move the dial for the sector.
“The agriculture sector has been a huge supporter of AquaWatch, and so we’re excited to be part of this new Hub and to take the time to chat with our farmers about what’s working and what isn’t. Having these conversations deepens awareness of the solutions.
“Drawing educational lines around the health of our waterways and instilling a sense of kaitiakitanga in our people is where AquaWatch likes to be. We’re looking forward to diving in.”
To find out more about AquaWatch, visit aquawatchsolutions.com