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5 March, 2015 - 13:54 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge Shepherd tends to the floc in water clean-up

Bactest's Shepherd technology in action

Bactest, the Cambridge bug busting technology business, has launched a second generation product targeted at cleaning up the water industry.

Shepherd is an Activated Sludge (AS) Monitoring and Management System designed to enable waste water companies to drastically cut electricity costs and carbon footprint.

This particular Shepherd actually deals with the floc – a biological floc key to the treatment of sewage. Bactest has already sold its first system to Thames Water. Venture-backed Bactest invented and manufactures Speedy Breedy, a versatile and portable microbial contamination test.

Based on the same microbial respirometry technology platform as its first product Speedy Breedy, Shepherd calculates a BOD5 (biochemical oxygen demand) proxy every 60 minutes and gives hourly recommendations to plant operators via a three tier software system on the required airflow to efficiently manage the AS process.

Shepherd will also identify toxic events and generate alerts for unusual activity such as plant failure.

The AS process uses 60 per cent of the energy required for wastewater treatment. To avoid plant failure water companies often over aerate AS, with two per cent of all electricity generated in the UK being utilised in this process.

Bactest CEO, Professor Annie Brooking said “Activated sludge is a process for treating sewage using a biological floc composed of bacteria and protozoa, and air to enable them to grow and convert the sewage into a harmless product that can be safely put into natural watercourses.

“Until now there is no way to quickly measure the health and activity of the floc so waste water companies over aerate to ensure the plant does not fail, which can be a costly exercise. The test used to measure the health of the AS process is called BOD5, so called as the test takes five days. As waste water typically remains in the AS process for only a few hours, the BOD5 test is not suitable for operational purposes.

“Three years ago we set about developing a fast BOD5 proxy that could be used for operational plant aeration management with fast financial payback.  We have achieved that goal with Shepherd, with data to show that Shepherd can pay for itself in less than 12 months whilst it manages the floc.” Shepherd comprises a proprietary sensor that floats in the AS lane coupled with a three tier software system. The software includes a cloud-based dashboard that provides an audit trail and plant management information, a traffic light display alongside the AS lane for in-situ operator updates and an email notification system for remote monitoring of unmanned AS sites.

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