OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

FRED - The Field Ready Electrochemical Detector

We build next generation water quality tools to tell you exactly what is in your water faster and easier than ever before.

Photo of David Lloyd
3 3

Written by

How does your idea apply new technologies to make agriculture and water systems more resilient in the face of climate threats?

With changing climate, understanding the chemistry of our water is more important than ever before. Unfortunately, understanding water quality requires an off-site lab which is expensive and time consuming. Reacting to changing conditions requires tools that can be used on-site by anyone to produce trusted data. FREDsense builds easy to use, chemical testing tools that require no special handling, are accurate and built for an internet based world.

FREDsense Technologies is a water instrumentation company building fast, portable and incredibly easy to use chemical sensors using the power of biology. FREDsense rivals analytical lab data, requires no sample preparation and represents a method for scalable analysis. With traction in the wastewater remediation, environmental consulting, and utilities markets, FREDsense is a disruptive technology changing how we think about what's in our water.

FRED combines an engineered bacterial sensor with an electrochemical output to measure specific contaminants in water. The sensor is comprised of two parts: (1) Single-use cartridges with the components needed for analysis, and (2) Portable detector that measures/transmits the data. When exposed to a sample, FRED produces a quantifiable electrical signal that measures how much of the compound is present. Cartridges are filled with water samples and placed into the detector, which in under an hour, completes analysis and then reports the compound concentration either wirelessly or through USB. Currently we have validated FRED for arsenic through comparison studies with third-party labs and a first field pilot with a major Latin American company. Further field pilots and ETV/EPA 3rd party verification testing is planned throughout 2017.
FRED is faster and more sensitive than existing solutions, achieving 1 ppb detection on-site; avoiding the need to ship samples and wait days for results. The sensor is easy to use with no pretreatment and is designed using a modular platform that can be customized for most compounds in water industries. Cartridges will be sold as packs for each contaminant, and all cartridges will be compatible with the same detector, allowing a razor-blade model where customers purchase sets of disposable cartridges over time and use the same detector. FRED can also be adapted in future to allow for real-time, automated monitoring in the field.

Water quality analysis is over a $3 billion global opportunity growing by more than 7% each year. It can be divided into physical (pH, temperature, etc.), chemical (arsenic, heavy metals, etc.) and biological sensors (bacteria). Today, physical sensors dominate the marketplace. While they are cheap, portable and capable of real-time data transmission, chemical sensing largely relies on analytical lab analysis which takes significant time (5-10 business days) and high cost. Field technologies are often considered unreliable, difficult to use and can't be scaled past a few sample sites because of sample preparation. FREDsense alleviates these barriers to entry, making chemical analysis simple, streamlined and scalable for water quality providers. With numerous potential verticals, we have chosen to focus on waste water remediation as a target customer. With over 85 cubic km's of wastewater produced each year in the USA, remediation companies need fast testing to validate their results and often pay up to $2,000 per sample for full water analysis. There is a strong value proposition for a simple, reliable, and modular system to detect arsenic and numerous other parameters and we have found significant traction in this segment with over 10 companies requesting pilots through our website.  Our competitors are field testing kits. We do not wish to compete directly against analytical labs but become a screening tool to validate the regulatory information produced by these organizations. Field kits are hard to use and often times human error prevents them from being reliable. FREDsense's simple one step addition model is a game-changer and we have validated this as a major pain point of our customers. A major barrier to market entry is regulations on water compliance data. We have worked with two US water districts to validate our sensor, and aim to work with early adopters to build case studies for EPA and Canadian compliance requirements.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Because we can customize the type of sensors that our system is able to work with, we would develop a lead sensor that could measure the lead of our central water system. We could go to local community groups to measure lead concentration in a decentralized manner and provide a full picture of lead throughout our entire utility's system in days.

We are excited to learn about ideas at diverse stages of development. At what stage would you currently classify your idea as? (multiple choice)

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.
  • Piloting: I have started to implement my finalized solution with a first set of real users.

How do you plan to grow or scale this idea?

FRED is a game changer when it comes to water quality analysis. We believe that we can change the way we think about water monitoring and produce new sensors for fast chemical analysis that apply to almost any other type of industry and market. We believe we can quickly provide communities and innovators needed water quality information.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We believe that working with the OpenIDEO community to be able to support with the validation work needed to create an easy and customized solution for communities that scales. In addition we believe that by working with social impact based initiatives we can help empower other ideas to drive solutions with global implications.

This idea emerged from:

We were a team of undergraduates and graduate students in Canada competing in a genetic engineering competition at MIT. We won a number of awards at the competition and spun the idea out of the University into FREDsense Technologies.

Tell us about your work experience:

Our team's backgrounds are in synthetic biology, electrochemistry and hardware development. We have won multiple awards at the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition and have been working for years in do-it-yourself biology as a way of developing products for social impact. Our team has been recognized with numerous awards, Emily is a Top 35 Under 35 innovator and Lisa is a Top 30 Under 30 in Alberta's Oil and Gas Industry.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ozuluonye Shedrack

Hi David,

Please can we adopt same in Nigeria, for small holders without access to clean water?

View all comments