Meet the Founders - Delta Waterways

Councils and other industry bodies are under increasing pressure to improve their monitoring and reporting on the health of New Zealand’s many waterways. With many of our waterways being large and often remote, accurate data harvesting can be difficult and not always as effective or efficient as needed.

Delta Waterways is hoping to change that. The company is developing a software tool for waterbody quality measurement and analysis SaaS platform using multispectral satellite imagery.

Meet the founders Brendan Bell, Ander Castelltort and James Lear. They are one of the start-ups taking part in our three-month Sprout 2022 Accelerator in the Cohort IX intake.

The idea for the company came about after the team competed in the TakiWaehere Geospatial Hackathon in 2021.

“They gave us some satellite data and 24 hours to build something from scratch. We built our first prototype then with no intentions of it being commercialised. We won some prize money and were approached by one of the judges who thought what we had created could be useful for councils and offered to put us in contact with some people,” said Ander.

Once they started looking into things further, they realised that current methods of monitoring waterways were inadequate and inefficient. One of the key issues they identified was limited monitoring. In-situ sensors used by many councils collect data at regular intervals, but they can only collect data points at one location and are difficult to use for remote waterways.

“What we provide addresses both the temporal and spatial problems. We can monitor multiple times a week and measure hundreds and thousands of data points across a waterway instead of just a single point,” said Brendan.

It’s novel and disruptive technology in a market that hasn’t experienced much change or advancement in recent years, the duo said.

“Satellite science has progressed, but people haven’t recognised the opportunity it brings. We were surprised to find out that many councils can spend tens of millions of dollars on waterway monitoring, but the information they’re getting out the other end is limited. We want to save them money and give back so much more value from our data,” said Ander.

The name Delta Waterways stems from the Greek letter delta, which in science is used as a symbol of change – exactly what they’re hoping to stir up regarding waterway monitoring.

The team is made up of Brendan, Ander and James. Brendan is an electrical engineer by trade looking after the sales, customer engagement and CEO duties. Ander is completing a Masters of Science in astrophysics and looking after the data analysis and mathematical modelling side of the house and will eventually take on the role of Chief Technology Officer. James rounds out the team's technology-heavy knowledge as the resident Environmental Scientist and Remote Sensing Specialist.

As such a young team, some of their main challenges have been their confidence and ability to reach out and communicate their ideas with industry bodies and individuals with many more years of experience than themselves.

“At the start, we often felt like we couldn’t approach certain people because they were too important or we didn’t deserve their time. Now we are of the mindset that if we bring something to them that benefits them, they should want to talk to us,” said Ander.

They’ve also had to learn how to ‘talk the talk’ when it comes to business. From negotiations, sales engagement and value proposition to communicating with potential mentors and investors, the technology-savvy team has sometimes felt out of their depth.

“It was hard at the start. We knew we had this good idea when we saw that the data we got from satellite matched to data from councils, but it was learning how to communicate in a way that wasn’t just communicating the science like we are used to,” said Brendan.

Time and creating good networks of mentors and other supporters have been vital in helping them overcome those challenges, and they are hoping that Sprout will help them push themselves even further.

“Sprout is a great opportunity for us. It exposes us to different ways of thinking, engaging and communicating to help round off our skill set from a group of guys who can write good code to guys that can run a business,” said Ander.

Find out more about Sprout Accelerator.