Crowdsourcing for phosphorus control

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

Turtle swims surrounded by algae, in a pond near Morris Road in the Marsh. Alain Veron/Photographer.

Turtle swims surrounded by algae, in a pond near Morris Road in the Marsh. Alain Veron/Photographer.

Everyone has heard of crowdsource funding – but crowdsourcing innovation?

Sabrina Ternier explained: it's when “an individual comes up with a complex problem and puts it out to the world to solve.”

Examples included the $25,000 prize for the first trans-Atlantic flight, “solved” by aviator Charles Lindberg.

And a new example is the George Barley Water Prize – a crowdsourcing innovation challenge that is offering $11 million in prizes in global competition, for the best solution for removing phosphorus from water bodies.

Phosphorus in water can lead to accelerated weed growth and algal blooms, a problem “becoming more and more frequent,” said Ternier, with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change's Environmental Innovation Branch. “This is a global issue. It's going to take global innovation to solve.”

Ternier was in BWG Council on August 1, to provide information on the Challenge, and how it will impact the municipality.

The George Barley Water Prize was introduced by the Everglades Foundation in Florida and Scott's MiracleGro Foundation to spur the development of radical “outside of the box” technologies, Ternier said – not “little increments” of change, but breakthroughs. “We're talking more about moon shots, the technology that will revolutionize the industry.”

The George Barley competition has four stages. Stage one, offering a prize of $35,000, was completed a year ago, and saw 77 entries. Stage 2, which will whittle the number of entries to 10, is still open and offers a top prize of $80,000.

But it's Stage 3, the Pilot Project stage offering a prize of $800,000, that will be of most interest to Bradford West Gwillimbury.

Stage 3 will be taking place at the Art Janse Pumping station in the Holland Marsh, where the 10 finalists from Stage 2 will have an opportunity to test their technologies, between February and April of 2018.

“The Town gets to be part of a global partnership,” said Ternier – and the winning technologies will be available to help reduce phosphorus levels in the Holland River and Lake Simcoe. “It's happening in your backyard.”

Four finalists will be selected as a result of the pilot project stage; one will win the Water Prize of $10 million.

“It's nice to see that we're moving forward, new technologies that could solve these problems,” said Councillor Mark Contois, who asked about a previous pilot project to test “Phoslock” as a way to remove phosphorus from water.

Drainage superintendent Frank Jonkman Jr. noted that the Phoslock test was inconclusive.

It's a one-time chemical application that binds phosphorus to the lakebed, but can't deal with ongoing  inputs, Ternier said – unlike the new innovative technologies, which are expected to “close the loop” and provide a way to remove the phosphorus for reuse.