An Afternoon with Matys Tessier from Ozero Solutions AH BC ’20, on the shores of the Petit Lac Magog
By Nadah Ben-Yedder, Research Support Officer (summer 2021 intern)
It was a sunny Friday when Mélissa Dick (program manager at AquaAction) and I left Montréal by car to drive to the Eastern Townships. At the time, my knowledge of Ozero Solutions was not detailed, but rather broad: the company was made up of a team of young engineers from the University of Sherbrooke who had participated and were Finalists in the 2020 British Columbia AquaHacking Challenge. Today, they have close links with various municipalities in Quebec, one of which is the town of Magog, with the mandate to protect their lakes from the threat of invasive aquatic species. I wondered if there was any potential that their innovative technology could travel across Canada to protect waters across the country, beyond the Quebec province.
We met Matys Tessier, co-founder of Ozero Solutions, on the shores of the Petit Lac Magog. We were able to meet him in person, finally, after delivering the 2020 BC AquaHacking Challenge virtually because of the pandemic. Matys and his team won the first prize in that competition. Meeting him in person gave us the opportunity to see their watercraft washing station in action.
Matys explained to us in detail every facet of their equipment and even gave us a demonstration. Their innovation helps to preserve the flora and fauna of lakes frequented by boats. Thanks to a system that pushes hot water into the internal piping of nautical vessels, invasive aquatic species are purged, which aims to tackle, at the source, the problem that new species could enter lakes and create an imbalance in the ecology and the food chain. Obviously, not all watercraft have internal piping, which is why Ozero Solutions team was equipped with a simple washing station as well to rinse the outside of boats.
After chatting with Matys and seeing his demonstration, Mélissa and I took the rest of the day to paddle around the Petit Lac Magog, which is not that small after all! We saw a multitude of marine crafts, families playing in the water… A beautiful little piece of paradise on a warm summer day. Imagining that this lake could be preyed upon by zebra mussels, we can easily imagine that there would be more than one thing that would change. Feeling the sand on our feet would no longer be possible since the lake basin would be completely covered with their sharp shells. The flow of water through the intake pipes would be almost entirely blocked and eventually native species would be suffocated by the growing numbers of the zebra mussels.
We now understand the importance of this technology and that it could save millions of dollars to municipalities in Quebec if preventative measures are deployed in time, as Matys explained to us. Zebra mussels is the key invasive aquatic organism of concern because it has no natural predators and competes fiercely with native species for their habitats. The ecological impacts caused by the introduction of zebra mussels can be significant, even affecting certain species of aquatic birds (source: La moule zébrée, Ministère des Fôrets, de la Faune et des Parcs Gouvernement du Québec).
The zebra mussel is not the only invasive aquatic organism that can be found in our lakes. Another species is the Eurasian Watermilfoil, an invasive aquatic plant that can easily cling to boat propellers. If a boat is not rinsed when it is transported from one lake to another, this plant could be introduced to previously unaffected lakes (source: Espèces exotiques envahissantes, Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques). This would completely disrupt the natural ecosystem of our lakes if no action is taken. In the worst-case scenario, we will be at the forefront of a loss of diversity of native species. And that is why Ozero Solutions’ thorough boat-washing station and awareness-raising efforts are so important.
However, it is important to consider (and Matys pointed this out to us as well) that to effectively preserve our natural habitats, it would require a collaboration of the government and the municipalities to put in place legislation and support companies, like Ozero Solutions, to take care of our vast bodies of water. The team at Ozero Solutions inspires me and makes me optimistic about the solutions we could put in place to help introduce innovative devices to protect our aquatic ecosystems. Thanks to the AquaHacking Challenge, these young academics were able to turn their idea into a reality and to launch their start-up.