Category Archives: Freelance Writing

Aftaz Aquaponics Systems wins Southern Nevada Business Plan Competition

Martin, Andracki, Kramer, Marrocco

Leith Martin director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, left, and Anthony Marrocco present a check to competition winners Claudia Andracki and Stephanie Kramer-Vega of Aftaz Aquaponics Systems. (Courtesy UNLV)

Beyond the glitz and glamor of the Las Vegas Strip, sequestered behind office doors, in garages and tiny laboratories, visionaries work tirelessly, often foregoing life’s luxuries, in a quest to create something incredible and perhaps life-changing.

Such is the case of the five teams that made the final cut in the eighth annual Dominic Anthony Marrocco Southern Nevada Business Plan Competition, this summer.

The competition is managed by the UNLV Lee Business School Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Through these types of events we can continue to help diversify the local economy, as well as support local entrepreneurs in their efforts to build companies here in Las Vegas,” said Leith Martin, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

 

On June 9, Aftaz Aquaponics Systems was selected as the winner. Designed to grow vegetable crops in the arid desert, Aquaponics is a two-stage system that uses hydroponic technology combined with aquaculture (the raising of fish) to grow vegetable plants. The plants are grown in a hydroponic tank and the fish are raised in their separate aquaculture tank. As waste from the fish builds up, it is pumped from the tank and treated with natural bacteria that converts the waste matter to nutrients that are usable by the plants. In exchange, the plants absorb the beneficial nutrients and provide fresh, clean water that is transferred back to the fish tank. Because of the closed loop system, very little water is lost except through natural evaporation making the technology highly water efficient. Also, the plants survive on natural nutrients without the need of chemical fertilizers. For more information about the company, visit aftazgrowingsystems.com.

Other contenders for the top prize included

• RADs (Resilient Arthroplasty Devices), which was developed by R. Thomas Grotz, M.D. as an alternative to knee replacement surgery. RADs are 3-D printed polymer caps that are arthroscopically fitted over arthritic knee joints to preserve joint integrity, reduce pain and improve function with the goal of avoiding radical knee replacement surgery.

• Tech Start Academy, a program designed to teach children as young as 4 how to build websites using WordPress. The company also teaches students how to create professional graphics and a YouTube channel, techstartacademy.com/pages/academy.

• Window Magic is developing a product that combines existing computer and smartphone technologies to control your living environment beyond what is currently available today. The key to its success is an organic light emitting diode that is installed into a window and is used to change the glass from transparent to a visual scene like a painting. The team plans to market Window Magic to high-end resorts.

• Revive, makes sports gear and its biggest seller is a round bag with a handle and shoulder straps for carrying a basketball. The trio of partners, who in 2011, started their company in the garage of their east Las Vegas home, have already achieved moderate success. They will be featured on an upcoming episode of Steve Harvey’s “Funderdome,” a new series developed by Mark Burnett where budding entrepreneurs go head-to-head to win over a live studio audience and win a cash prize, revivebrandco.com.

Aftaz Aquaponics Systems won $10,000 in cash from the competition sponsor Dominic Anthony Marrocco. In addition, the winner received over $41,000 in prizes were awarded, including $10,000 in legal services from Howard and Howard, $11,500 in accounting services from Eide Bailly and $9,600 in virtual office services from St Rose Executive Suites and $10,000 in advertising from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The winner of this competition cannot collect its prizes unless it incorporates and take its product to market.

During the past seven years, more than $600,000 in cash and prizes have been awarded to the winning teams.

In late May, 18 teams submitted a three- to five-page executive summary, outlining the key aspects of their business concept. All submissions were rated by at least two judges from the community and UNLV Lee Business School faculty. The 10 highest-rated summaries advanced to the semi-finals.

The teams selected to be semi-finalists were required to submit a full business plan, including financial projections, for review by a panel of judges, comprised of professional investors, entrepreneurs, and advisors. However, unlike other business plan competitions, specifically organized around academics and based solely on the business plan composition, this contest looks at the viability of the proposed business. One of the questions the judges had to ask themselves was: Would you consider investing in this team? The five highest-scoring teams then advance to the finals.

In the final round, the five finalists were asked to give a 15-minute investor pitch, followed by a 15-minute question-and-answer period in a daylong event held at UNLV.


Oquendo Center provides surgical training to veterinarians and physician events

The WVC is a Las Vegas-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been providing comprehensive, progressive and practical continuing education to veterinary professionals since 1928. Prior to their name change in 2014, the WVC was known as the Western Veterinary Conference. Since that time the group has expanded its physical presence and extended surgical training to medical doctors across the globe.

In 2009, WVC opened the Oquendo Center at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Oquendo Road across from McCarran International Airport. The 66,000-square-foot facility includes a 190-seat theater, flexible meeting space accommodating various capacities, and clinical and diagnostic laboratories. In 2016, more than 3.500 people attended a veterinary course and expansion is underway to increase the campus size to more than 134,000 square feet by 2019.

Since its opening, the Oquendo Center has hosted over 1,000 veterinary and human medical events, training over 23,000 veterinary professionals and nearly 24,000 medical doctors and surgeons. Participants in Oquendo Center courses experience a variety of learning styles from hands-on labs and lectures to professional and career development workshops; as well as networking functions and special events.

The technologically advanced WVC also provides access to an online community forum where participants can exchange ideas, network and increase industry knowledge through shared experiences. With 36,000 opt-in subscribers, the community forum continues to build momentum.

Each year, the Dr. Jack Walther Leadership Award is given to 33 doctor of veterinary medicine students and two veterinary technician students who are actively involved in their school and show long-term leadership potential.

Nearly 500 students have received the $1,000 award along with complimentary registration, lodging, airfare and a daily stipend to attend the WVC Annual Conference.

While most people think about veterinary medicine in connection with their pets, The Dr. W. Bruce Wren Food Animal Incentive Award offered by WVC, recognizes five graduates from veterinary colleges/schools who enter the food animal practice or other careers directly related to food animal practice. These veterinarians are responsible for the health of animals that provide a food source for humans. Award recipients are interns or first-year residents in theriogenology (the study of reproduction), production medicine or food animal medicine/surgery with a training program recognized by The American Association of Veterinary Clinicians.

In addition to ongoing studies, the WVC Annual Conference, now in its 89th year, hosts one of the largest gatherings of veterinary professionals.

In 2016, nearly 15,000 participants from the 50 states as well as 43 countries spanning six continents converged at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Attendees were able to choose from more than 1,000 continuing education hours in avian and exotics, equine, food animal, practice management, small animal and veterinary technician. When surveyed, 85 percent of the participants said they are “extremely likely” or “likely” to recommend the WVC Annual Conference to a colleague.

Because of the history and success of the WVC Annual Conference, it was chosen by CadmiumCD to launch eventScribe Boost, an “enhanced meeting planning application” during the 2016 event. The eventScribe App allows meeting planners, speakers or vendors to log in and view conference information that is related to their specific role.

The WVC also is very involved with the Las Vegas community and provides a variety of resources, supplies and staff time in support of local charities.

Since 2014, the WVC has worked with the Desert Tortoise Group to help control the domesticated tortoise population in Nevada, providing health checks, microchipping, tagging and sterilization procedures.

The staff participates in a variety of programs to donate gifts and food to local schoolchildren and military personnel and their K-9 colleagues, stationed overseas. They also have participated in the Three Square program that seeks to meet the needs of almost 300,000 food-insecure people in the area.

The Oquendo Center staff works closely with local animal shelters and ensure that all animals are properly sterilized, health-checked and, in some cases, socialized for a better chance of adoption. Facility space is donated to nonprofit groups such as K-9 Medic, when the center is not booked for other courses. The Oquendo Center staff also volunteers its own time to community vaccination events in low-income areas.


Downtown learning center supports businesses with classes, resources

RedFlint is an extension of the University of Phoenix. Located at 300 S. Fourth Street in downtown Las Vegas, the facility has an open-door policy that encourages intellectual collaboration and exchange of ideas. To accomplish its goal, RedFlint features a rotating showcase of technologies that are designed to inspire entrepreneurs and demonstrate the ways that technology can help enhance and advance their business.

The showcases update on a quarterly basis and feature on-going classes that teach the use of tools such as SAS Analytical Software that uses technology to gather, analyze and manage business intelligence; and Toolwire Cybersecurity Experience, enabling students to walk through scenarios to see how cybersecurity impacts real world situations.

RedFlint offers training for Double Robot and virtual reality software and the role it will play in the future of business.

Many of Redflint’s classes are held on weekends and in the late afternoon or evenings to allow students to attend after normal work hours.

RedFlint’s innovative Iron Yard Ventures is a 13-week program that works with startup companies to solve problems in the hospitality and entertainment industries. Startups receive equity investments to help grow their company and present their progress to investors at the end of the program. Iron Yard Ventures is privately owned and is the sister company of Iron Yard Code Bootcamp. IYV manages the accelerator aspect of RedFlint.

One of the Iron Yard Ventures success stories is a company called MentalHappy that delivers a “Cheerbox” that is customized for the recipient.

In 2016, RedFlint received the Elearning! Media Group’s Learning! 100 Award as one of the top 10 leaders in innovation and the forward thinking design of education.


Lotus introduces all-new Evora 400

To say that driving the new Lotus Evora 400 is exciting would be an understatement of major proportion. Potential customers got the chance to test drive the vehicle April 21-22 at Lotus of Las Vegas, 6401 Centennial Blvd.

As you approach the Evora from the side, you cannot help but notice the sleek lines that somehow make it look as if the automobile is flying, even while standing still. Part of the illusion is created by the fact that the rear tire rims are 20 inches in diameter while the front rims are 19 inches.

The midengine placement also makes the exterior features much higher in the back while allowing the front end to cut a deep sloping angle into the wind. Looking at the Evora from the front, it almost takes on a human-like, mischievous facial expression, with its slanted hood, wide grill and deep-seated headlights.

It is not until you sit inside the Evora, however, that you realize that this is a truly well-built machine. The Evora 400 weighs in at only 3,179 pounds, yet the doors feel heavy and solid. And despite the aerodynamic windshield and side windows, there is plenty of room for the driver and passenger in this two-seater. Oh yes, there is a little bench seat in the back, which is not very practical for human passengers but great for carrying groceries, a couple of overnight bags, or perhaps a medium-size dog.

The bucket seats are covered in a rich-looking hand-stitched leather with firm but extremely comfortable cushioning and contoured support that will accommodate most any body shape and size. Adding to the luxury look and feel of the interior is the matching hand-stitched leather center console, dashboard and steering wheel.

The Evora comes with a sports ratio six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic. While the automatic transmission is faster than the manual transmission, due to the human aspect, the “Quaife Limited Slip Differential,” only available with the manual transmission, does allow the car to get more traction and hold the road better. Also helping the Evora hold the road is an exceptionally rigid and strong chassis with a fully independent suspension, anti-roll bar, Eibach springs with Bilstein dampers and a lightweight rear sport diffuser that delivers an extra 50 pounds of downforce.

The car that I drove was an automatic and, unlike most cars, the shifter was replaced with buttons for park, neutral and drive, all within comfortable reach on the center console. The dashboard is well laid out with easy-to-read instruments including a display screen for viewing the rear-facing camera and rear parking sensor, Satellite navigation, entertainment options and Bluetooth communication.

OK, time to start the engine, and words can hardly describe the low throaty sound that comes out of the 3.5-liter V-6, 24-valve, water-cooled, 400-horsepower, all aluminum, Toyota Camry engine with Edelbrock supercharger. The all-titanium exhaust system almost makes the car sound like it is purring at idle with a deep burble that gets your attention but is not too loud.

Step on the gas and this baby goes from zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, and you can hear the power as it shifts through the gears.

On the day of my test drive, Lotus of Las Vegas set up a test track in the parking lot behind the dealership. Arthur Merabian, internet sales manager, took me for a two-lap spin around the track to show me how the Evora 400 performs and to familiarize me with the track. In the hands of an experienced driver such as Merabian, you feel like you are strapped into an Indycar and racing the Grand Prix; this car was made for tight turns and open-road driving.

Even with an automatic transmission, the tires squealed off the starting line, and at over 55 mph through the first sweeping 60-degree turn, the car had a solid grip on the pavement without any sideways movement. Shooting the short straightaway, the Evora wasted no time building speed then shot through the four zig-zag obstacles with superb precision.

The straightaway at the end gave the Evora some running room and, while we didn’t hit the 185 mph top end that this vehicle is capable of doing, Merabian set me firmly against the back of the seat when he floored the accelerator. Even at high speed, stopping was not a problem with the Servo-assisted two-piece cross-drilled and ventilated brake discs with AP Racing four-piston calipers.

I took the wheel and did three laps around the track, each one progressively faster but nowhere close to the speed that Merabian was driving. But I could feel the power of the engine with each millimeter of pressure on the gas pedal and the response of the incredible steering system with each subtle movement of the wheel.

Everyone who drove the Evora 400 that day had nothing but praise for the automobile.

Jill Halverson, a mild-mannered middle school teacher by day, but an experienced SCCA AutoCross driver in her spare time, drove the Evora around the track in nearly record time.

“I’d sell my first child for one,” Halverson said after her test run. After hearing the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $89,900, Halverson decided that she would have to look for an alternative way to raise the money.

“My son’s probably not worth that much; he doesn’t do chores very well,” she said.

Halverson described the handling as “very intuitive.” She also thought the seats were very comfortable for normal street driving.

“But on the track, the all-leather seats tend to be slippery, and I would rather have cloth seats if I were to race the Evora,” she said.

Lotus actually has an answer to the slippery seat problem and offers a bucket seat with a combination of suede in the seating area and finished leather around the outside. No cloth seats for this race horse.

Frank Leonard is a competitive go-cart racer in his spare time and described the Evora’s handling as “crisp and tight.”

Check it out

The Evora 400 can be seen at Lotus of Las Vegas, 6401 Centennial Center Blvd. For information, call 702-784-1111 or visit lotusoflasvegas.com.


Industry leaders gather at Convene for Green Conference

One of the highlights of the event was the debut of the nine-year-old public-private group’s new name and logo. Green Chips’ tree sprouting green poker chips was replaced with a modern logo showcasing the new name, Impact Nevada.

The initial idea and conversation for the development of Green Chips revolved around green practices. Today, that conversation has changed or evolved to include environment, nature, health, economy, energy, social equity, transportation and other elements that create a sustainable community. The Green Chips board elected to rebrand the organization to reflect this philosophy.

During the afternoon and evening event, 140 attendees, which included politicians, corporate executives and community organizers, heard four presentations that included:

■ Our Future in Energy:This addressed recent renewable energy initiatives’ impacts on our community and how the public and private sectors are working to achieve goals.

■ Art in Focus: This talk was presented by Jean-Francois Michaud, director of corporate social responsibility for Cirque du Soleil.

■ Our Future in Medicine: This presentation included a deep dive into individual and collaborative goals toward making our region a global center for health and wellness. (Highlights on page 7.)

■ Collaboration in Focus: This discussion showcased federal, state, regional and local collaborations that are scaling urban agriculture in our region. Highlighting the discussion was the development of the Zion Choice Neighborhood Community Garden Park, a vacant desert lot that is being converted to a community garden to teach residents how to grow vegetables and cook healthy meals.

To close the conference, Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of government relations and corporate responsibility for Caesars Entertainment, former mayor of Las Vegas and one of the founding members of Green Chips, along with co-founding member Tom Perrigo, director of planning and chief sustainability officer for the city of Las Vegas, discussed the influence that Green Chips has had on the community.

The group was founded in 2008, when a small group of five individuals decided that it would be a great idea to promote a green agenda to the local businesses and community leaders. It was organized to become a public-private partnership that advances environmental sustainability initiatives by bringing together major employers, utilities and public agencies to collaborate on the idea of sustainability.

“What was unique about Green Chips at the time and what I have always liked with Las Vegas is taking the opportunity to surprise people. People have perceptions about who we are, what we are, what we stand for and what we do. So putting together a program that defined this community as a leader in sustainable practices was just too good of an opportunity to pass,” Blackhurst said.

“When you step back and look at what we have accomplished together and as individuals, in our companies and our organizations, it really is phenomenal what has happened over these last nine years, and a large part of that is because of Green Chips,” Perrigo said.

Some of those successes are:

■ Introduction of the annual Green Chips State of Sustainability Report.

■ Powering the Welcome to Las Vegas sign with renewable solar energy.

■ Sean’s Park at Opportunity Village, a 2.5-acre park designed for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

■ More than 5,000 residential homes placed on sustainability programs.

“When we first started with Tom, there were five of us, and we were hoping that we could find some other interested corporate sponsors. And what really happened is that the community came together as it has done so many times and said, not only are we going to do this, but we are going to do it bigger and better and with more enthusiasm than anybody else could imagine,” Blackhurst said.

“We do things, and then we become the model for the rest of the country, and that is what is so amazing about all of the people in the room today,” Blackhurst said.

“A lot of the conversation today at Convene for Green has been around how do we create that perception of our community that is going to draw in the talent, the companies, the workers to create the workforce and that is really important to our community moving forward,” Perrigo said.

Rounding out the event were the 2017 Community Sustainability Awards, given to those who have shown exemplary effort and achievement in making Southern Nevada a better, more productive and sustainable place to live. Receiving awards were:

■ Sustainable Leader Award– Arash Ghafoori, executive director, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth

■ Sustainable Community Award – Conservation District of Southern Nevada

■ Sustainable Future Award – West Technical and Career Academy

■ Lifetime Achievement in Sustainability – Gary Wood, Green Chips co-founder and Renewable Energy Program manager for the Las Vegas Valley Water District/Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Green Chips, being rebranded as Impact Nevada, is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that assists partner agencies in aggregating federal, state, local and foundation financial resources to encourage clean energy, environmental conservation projects, social equity initiatives and improving the quality of life in Nevada.


Capriotti’s founder dies at Las Vegas home at Age 68

If you mention the names Ray Kroc, Dave Thomas, Carl Karcher and Col. Harland Sanders, most Americans will recognize them as giants in the fast food industry.

However, while few people would know the name Lois Margolet, millions would certainly recognize the name Capriotti’s, the sandwich brand she created that would ultimately set the standard for quality.

On Jan. 12, Margolet died in her Las Vegas home as the result of lung cancer. She was 68.

Capriotti’s moved its headquarters from Wilmington, Delaware to Las Vegas in 2008, when Ashley Morris and business partner Jason Smylie acquired the company. Capriotti’s has 105 restaurants, largely in Nevada and the Mid-Atlantic states.

The news spread quickly from one coast to the other as politicians and loyal patrons of the 105 sandwich shops in Las Vegas and the mid-Atlantic states mourned her death.

Cindy Cutler, Margolet’s niece and manager of a Capriotti’s near New Castle, Delaware, called her aunt a “tremendously smart” businesswoman.

“She had an incredible drive and did everything possible to make her dream come true,” Cutler said. “But Lois, the person, was also the most generous and loving person you would ever want to meet.”

Her sister, Ann Gwinn, said: “Those who knew Lois will (remember her) for so much more than a sandwich, but for how she treated everyone around her. She always worried about that faction of business — not just what it would bring to her but how (it was) going to impact somebody else’s life.”

In 1976, at the age of 28, Margolet quit her job at Military Base Management to open the first Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop at 510 N. Union St. in Wilmington, Delaware, the same Little Italy neighborhood where she grew up. Securing a $13,000 bank loan to purchase a $10,257 storefront, Margolet had exactly $2,743 to start her mom-and-pop sub shop, which she named after her grandfather, Philip Capriotti.

“She opened at a time when women in business wasn’t the norm,” Cutler said. “Everybody told her she wouldn’t survive.”

According to a 1976 Census Bureau report, women owned less than 5 percent of all businesses and produced less than 1 percent of total sales in the U.S.

“All the equipment she bought was used, and she even borrowed from some of the local bookies to get what she needed,” Gwinn said. “All she wanted was her own business.”

In the early years, Margolet struggled. There were times when she was forced to go out and get second jobs — side jobs — to make sure she had enough money to keep the business going.

Margolet’s mother even talked her youngest child, Alan, into leaving his job at Rodel, a small automotive repair and maintenance company in Newark, N.J., to help his older sister at the new shop.

What made Capriotti’s different from all of the other sandwich shops was that Margolet insisted on using the finest natural ingredients. She did not use processed meats.

One of Margolet’s biggest successes and what would become her signature creation is the Bobbie, a sandwich made of turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing and mayo on a sub bun — in the spirit of a sandwich her Aunt Bobbie used to serve on the day after Thanksgiving.

Initially, Margolet put the sandwich on the menu for a limited time during the holidays, but it became such a great success that they couldn’t take it off the menu. Today, each shop slow-roasts eight to 10 whole turkeys for 12 hours every night and pulls the meat by hand every morning.

In fact, the Bobbie tastes so good that it was responsible for the USA victory in the 2014 World Cup of Sandwiches final. The Bobbie, the Capriotti’s sandwich appointed as the nation’s standard-bearer, defeated the German Döner from Döner Bistro, taking 61 percent of the 1,476 votes, according to the contest’s judges.

The Capastrami (hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw) stacked high with premium ingredients is another signature favorite among patrons.

In Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200 census, Capriotti’s reported 2015 U.S. system-wide sales of $63.7 million across 90 units, including 13 company locations and 77 franchised restaurants. System average unit volumes in fiscal 2015 were $707,410.


Company’s goal is to become Silicon Valley of water technology

 

WaterStart, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit partnership of public- and private-sector organizations, is working to diversify the Las Vegas economy, create job growth and provide answers to drought and water quality issues in Nevada. Its goal is for Las Vegas to become the Silicon Valley of water technology.

A spinoff from the Desert Research Institute, WaterStart is a 501(C)6 organization that gets its funding from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It also receives matching funds for specific projects from its public and private partners, Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows water authorities, MGM Resorts, Winnemucca Farms, LVGEA, Reno Sparks Tahoe Economic Development Authority, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno.

Entering its second year of funding, WaterStart was networking with more than 1,500 water conservation professionals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico during the ninth annual Water Smart Innovations Conference and Exposition at the South Point in October.

Nathan Allen, executive director of the WaterStart initiative, explained that there are three basic drivers to the organization: to solve water challenges in Nevada through the use of new and innovative technology, build partnerships between private industry and the academic community and diversify the economy by attracting new businesses that create jobs.

To find these innovative technologies, Allen, with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental science and geology and a master’s degree in environmental education, has participated in the Governor’s Trade Mission, most recently to Australia, in an effort to facilitate an exchange of ideas.

The WaterStart team is not looking at conceptual ideas; it is only interested in prototypes that have been proven in the laboratory but have not had the opportunity to bring the product to market.

In the past 23 months, the four-member WaterStart team has vetted more than 150 technologies, received proposals from more than 60 companies that want to work with them and funded eight projects.

One of the projects is the installation of more than 3 miles of leak detection equipment on the water line that runs below the Las Vegas Strip. Edchologics, a Canadian company, is the first to develop this technology using a special microphone called a hydrophone that can hear water escaping. Another company, Syrinix, headquartered in the U.K., also is testing their TrunkMinder and PipeMinder on water lines in the valley to monitor pressure and flow data.

WaterStart is also responsible for bringing IONEX, a California company that builds customized, small-scale water treatment plants to Nevada. IONEX plans to build an assembly and research and development facility in North Las Vegas, and estimates are this company will bring $2.5 million in tax revenue to the state.

IMGeospatial, a British company, has worked with utility companies throughout Europe to supply water managers with automatic cloud-based analytics for their internal geospatial platforms. WaterStart paired the company with the Desert Research Institute to utilize its automated, patent-pending flood-modeling solutions. WaterStart is also close to completing a deal with IMGeospatial that will establish a Las Vegas branch office to house a software development team.

Winnemucca Farms, the largest agricultural producer in the state with 35,000 acres of irrigated land, has adopted water-saving irrigation technologies from around the world. Working with WaterStart, it is experimenting with a company that uses drone technology to measure plant stress from the air and improve irrigation precision while saving even more water.

All 17 counties in Nevada have been under a Drought Emergency Declaration since 2012. Besides having a lack of water for drinking, the drought has caused major problems with the buildup of nitrates in the groundwater.

Its goal is for Las Vegas to become the Silicon Valley of water technology.

A spinoff from the Desert Research Institute, WaterStart is a 501(C)6 organization that gets its funding from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. It also receives matching funds for specific projects from its public and private partners, Southern Nevada and Truckee Meadows water authorities, MGM Resorts, Winnemucca Farms, LVGEA, Reno Sparks Tahoe Economic Development Authority, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno.

Entering its second year of funding, WaterStart was networking with more than 1,500 water conservation professionals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico during the ninth annual Water Smart Innovations Conference and Exposition at the South Point in October.

Nathan Allen, executive director of the WaterStart initiative, explained that there are three basic drivers to the organization: to solve water challenges in Nevada through the use of new and innovative technology, build partnerships between private industry and the academic community and diversify the economy by attracting new businesses that create jobs.

To find these innovative technologies, Allen, with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental science and geology and a master’s degree in environmental education, has participated in the Governor’s Trade Mission, most recently to Australia, in an effort to facilitate an exchange of ideas.

The WaterStart team is not looking at conceptual ideas; it is only interested in prototypes that have been proven in the laboratory but have not had the opportunity to bring the product to market.

In the past 23 months, the four-member WaterStart team has vetted more than 150 technologies, received proposals from more than 60 companies that want to work with them and funded eight projects.

One of the projects is the installation of more than 3 miles of leak detection equipment on the water line that runs below the Las Vegas Strip. Edchologics, a Canadian company, is the first to develop this technology using a special microphone called a hydrophone that can hear water escaping. Another company, Syrinix, headquartered in the U.K., also is testing their TrunkMinder and PipeMinder on water lines in the valley to monitor pressure and flow data.

WaterStart is also responsible for bringing IONEX, a California company that builds customized, small-scale water treatment plants to Nevada. IONEX plans to build an assembly and research and development facility in North Las Vegas, and estimates are this company will bring $2.5 million in tax revenue to the state.

IMGeospatial, a British company, has worked with utility companies throughout Europe to supply water managers with automatic cloud-based analytics for their internal geospatial platforms. WaterStart paired the company with the Desert Research Institute to utilize its automated, patent-pending flood-modeling solutions. WaterStart is also close to completing a deal with IMGeospatial that will establish a Las Vegas branch office to house a software development team.

Winnemucca Farms, the largest agricultural producer in the state with 35,000 acres of irrigated land, has adopted water-saving irrigation technologies from around the world. Working with WaterStart, it is experimenting with a company that uses drone technology to measure plant stress from the air and improve irrigation precision while saving even more water.

All 17 counties in Nevada have been under a Drought Emergency Declaration since 2012. Besides having a lack of water for drinking, the drought has caused major problems with the buildup of nitrates in the groundwater.