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Hulo offers solution to impending water shortage

Leeuwarden-based Hulo has developed a technology to combat wasted drinking water. After successful pilots and an investment from Lumo Labs and the Netherlands Enabling Water Technology (NEW) Fund, the startup is preparing to make an impact worldwide.

Water scarcity is a growing problem worldwide. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) expects that half of the world's population will face permanent water scarcity in the near future. The scenario outlined by the RIVM regarding drinking water supplies in our own country is not exactly rosy either. If we do not act quickly, warns the knowledge and research institute, the entire Netherlands is at risk of a drinking water shortage by 2030.

Besides climate change and pollution, water waste is a major cause of the shortage of sufficient clean water. For example, due to cracks and holes in pipes, a lot of drinking water is lost around the world. In Europe alone, a quarter of drinking water never reaches the tap due to leaking pipes. In short, there is an urgent need for solutions for better and more efficient water management.

Obvious potential

One company that can play a significant role in this is Hulo. The Leeuwarden-based startup, a spinout of Leeuwarden-based Acquaint, offers an advanced AI solution to combat wasted drinking water. 'We develop algorithms and machine learning models to quickly detect and locate leaks in pipes in real time,' CEO and co-founder Robbert Lodewijks says. 'The technology, partly initiated from research we did at Wetsus, has been tested at Dutch water companies. The results showed that our solution has obvious potential. '

Hulo uses existing sensors present in virtually every pipe network worldwide to measure water pressure and flow. Based on the real-time data, algorithms can detect leaks and other anomalies in the network while indicating the location. If water leaks unexpectedly somewhere, an alarm is triggered so that a water company at the affected location can take immediate action.

No historical data

Signaling a possible leak is not in itself exceptional, 'except that existing technologies usually focus on only one sensor, for example a flow sensor to measure volume flow,' Robbert explains. 'Moreover, they use historical data, usually data from the previous two years that are examined for patterns. As a result, false alarms are regularly issued.'

Because yes, an abnormal flow does not always have to indicate an emergency. Consider breaks or right after important events on TV, when people visit the restroom en masse. Logically, considerably more water than normal flows through the pipes then. For traditional systems often cause alarms, whereas Hulo's system actually reduces the number of false alarms to a minimum. Simply because the technology does not compare historical data, but looks at how the various sensors behave in real time in relation to each other.

Making an impact

In the Netherlands, where about five percent of the water in the drinking water network is lost, we are still doing relatively well. But still: if you subtract one percent from that, a lot of waste is prevented. Elsewhere in the world the waste of water sometimes amounts to as much as 50 percent', Robbert knows. 'Not only in areas like Africa or Asia, but also in countries around us.'

And so Hulo wants to make an impact internationally. Especially in regions where water scarcity and spills are most critical. So the startup's mission statement is telling. 'We want to save four billion Olympic-sized pools of drinking water by 2030,' says Robbert. 'Ambitious, to be sure. But it does indicate what we stand for and where we want to go.'


To make a real difference globally, the company wants to further optimize the cloud solution and increase scalability. To accelerate that process, Hulo was looking for growth funding. With results, because recently Lumo Labs, an AI investor from Eindhoven, and the Netherlands Enabling Water Technology (NEW) Fund decided to jointly invest in the startup. NEW is a consortium(Wetstus, RUG, Deltares and NOM) that supports promising water technology initiatives.

World Player

'Intelligent and efficient management of water systems is an important area of focus for us,' underlines Boudewijn Hulst, Investment Manager at NEW. 'HULO's solution naturally fits in perfectly with that. We are also pleased to be able to make this investment together with Lumo Labs. Because of their expertise in the field of AI, of course, but also because they have a strong team of venture advisors that adds a lot of value to a startup like Hulo. Everything points to a bright future for the company. Indeed, if Hulo keeps up this development, it could actually grow into a global player.'