Tatiana Estevez Carlucci’s cleantech startup is revolutionizing where we can get our water from.
She shares how she created Permalution, a technology that collects water droplets from fog.
By Sarah Kelsey
If you’re like most people, when you see a cloud of fog rolling in, you probably think about waterproofing your wardrobe for the day. But if you’re someone like Tatiana Estevez Carlucci, all you see is possibility.
“It was right after graduation and it was my dream to go backpacking in California, so I landed in San Francisco,” she says, arriving at a time when the state was going through a historic drought, costing the economy billions and devastating the mental health of farmers. “I was looking out the window of my Airbnb, and as I watched the fog roll in, it hit me: fog is a huge source of water. What if that water could be harnessed to solve problems like drought?”
The result of that brainwave is Permalution: a revolutionary cleantech organization devoted to creating and leveraging technology to harvest water droplets from fog. Tatiana’s goal is to support local ecosystems and contribute to environmental conservation.
“By definition, fog or clouds are made up of tiny particles of water that are suspended in the air, so we developed technology that allows us to predict where fog will occur, the amount of water one can yield from a specific fog patch, and collect water droplets from fog as it passes over one of our units,” Tatiana says.
“We want to democratize fog as a new water source, and we need to introduce the technology in a way that allows everyone to access it.”
The fireproof, ready to assemble modules have an integrated IoT system and allow her team to collect 150 to 400 litres of water per day — or an amount that can support a family of four to six.
“We want to democratize fog as a new water source, and we need to introduce the technology in a way that allows everyone to access it while abiding by the water regulations in each state, province, and country,” she says.
Based in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the first-of-its-kind fog organization has received several recognitions and grants since launching in 2015, including one of BMO‘s Celebrating Women Grants in 2021.
Tatiana says she’s eternally grateful for the support and recognition, especially because she had no formal business or engineering education when starting her company. She took some electives in environmental engineering in university and went on to teach herself about all things sustainability; what she knew was that she ultimately wanted to work with water and in the cleantech space.
“I started little by little,” Tatiana says, adding that every small step has led her to the road she’s currently on, from landing in Silicon Valley for a period of time to working with the Canadian Government on environmental matters.
“The support of others, patience, and tenacity has been key to getting Permalution where it is today,” she says. Believing in the end result of what the technology can offer the world has also been key. “All entrepreneurs need to believe what they’re bringing to the table is very important and worth taking the risk and chance on.”
“What we’re doing really has the power to change the world.”
Tatiana keeps a book of accomplishments to flip through when she feels she or her organization have hit a wall; this empowers her to move forward when it feels like the universe is against her.
“Women need to get rid of the fear of failing in order to get to where we need to go. We have to fail fast and hard, but keep going,” she says.
Up next for Tatiana and Permalution is a new website so the organization can make more noise (a dream would be to attract attention from the likes of Greta Thunberg) and an advancement of plans to commercialize their products. Tatiana and her team want to increase output and recently started working with the University of Toronto to develop and launch a backpack-sized module that will, hopefully, bring water to displaced populations.
“We’re working on so many cool innovations that will help us bring this technology to where there is no fog or even few clouds so we can address the climate and water challenges of today,” she says. “What we’re doing really has the power to change the world.”