CINCINNATI – It sounds like a plot from a futuristic movie: Tiny robots that eat pollution in wastewater and use it to create energy.
But Cincinnati-based Pilus Energy knows how to make bacterial robots – known as BactoBots – to do that very thing. The technology is so promising that Pilus was acquired Monday by Florida-based Tauriga Sciences . Pilus owners will get the equivalent of 100,000,000 shares of Tauriga stock, which would be worth about $2 million based on Tuesday's trading price. The deal was announced the same day company officials launched a fundraising campaign that they hope will build more support for the startup and its technology.
Pilus Energy is trying to raise $50,000 on Indiegogo , a website where people contribute to projects and businesses that inspire them.
“If we could show $50,000 worth of crowdfunding into the company, it would really tell a lot of folks in the investment community that, you know what? Water may not sound like a sexy thing, but there are a lot of people around the world who care about it,” said Jason Barkeloo, outgoing president of Pilus Energy who will now serve on the advisory board for Tauriga.
And even though the company was sold, it still must build that support, he said.
Pilus Energy’s Indiegogo campaign is believed to be the first crowdfunding effort launched by a water technology company in Greater Cincinnati, said Alan Vicory, chairman of the board of Confluence. Confluence is a nonprofit working to attract more water technology businesses to the region and help grow the companies that are already here as WCPO and 91.7 WVXU reported in September .
“I would actually be disappointed and surprised if Pilus didn’t have a great deal of success,” Vicory said. “There is money out there.”
If Pilus Energy raises the money, the company will use it to expand its laboratory work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Test and Evaluation lab in Queensgate. That’s an important step toward building what the company calls “a full size industrial prototype” that would show how its BactoBots perform consuming different types of contaminants.
The company also lists stretch goals on its Indiegogo page. If Pilus Energy can raise $150,000, for example, the company would use that money to build a 100-gallon reactor that is a next important step to building a pilot project at the Metropolitan Sewer District’s wastewater treatment plant.
MSD Deputy Director Biju George wrote a letter of support for Pilus that’s included on the Indiegogo page.
“When I first talked to Pilus and the founders and the researchers, it was like a science fiction movie, and they made me a believer in it,” George said.
“If it can move to a level where they can commercialize this and truly apply it to a large scale, it’s going to completely change the science behind how we treat wastewater in the future,” he said.
The technology could transform wastewater treatment into a way to produce energy. At the very least, that energy could reduce the cost to treat wastewater, making it less expensive for consumers in the end, he said.
As with any Indiegogo campaign, Pilus is offering prizes for different pledge levels. Those include stickers of the company’s BactoBots and “Bioconversion Happens” t-shirts.
People who pledge $500 or more will get a tour of the EPA’s Test and Evaluation Center and watch a Pilus presentation in person.
Pilus Energy started out as a subsidiary of Bacterial Robotics, which is now a major investor in Tauriga, the company that acquired Pilus. Barkeloo remains CEO of Bacterial Robotics.
Another Bacterial Robotics subsidiary called Auricle Solutions announced Nov. 19 that it would conduct surgical procedures at Nova Specialty Surgery in Bangalore, India.
Auricle’s BactoBots, known as AuriBots, focus on targeting and destroying abnormal skin growths known as cholesteatoma in the middle ear behind the eardrum.