By Manisha Malik
Every time I have interviewed a founder for the Spotlight series, I have been amazed and inspired by their passion, talent, and humility. For this issue, when I was preparing to interview Naysan Saran, the CEO and Co-founder of CANN Forecast, it was extra special for me as she is the first woman founder to be featured in Spotlight.
Naysan is an extremely talented scientific programmer with a passion for mathematics to solve water-related crises affecting public health. I instantly connected with her warm personality and passion for the environment. Her dedication to making a difference has been the driving force behind her extraordinary journey as an entrepreneur and the success of CANN Forecast.
CANN Forecast is a Canadian company that has developed predictive models using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help municipalities manage the water quality and distribution infrastructure.
They have two products – InteliSwim and InteliPipes that help detect water quality of city beaches and identify pipe vulnerability in water distribution infrastructure, preventing water-related crises before they happen.
THE TURNING POINT
Naysan was working with Environment Canada as a scientific programmer using statistical models and machine learning for the post-processing of weather forecasts when she decided to participate in Aqua-Hacking Challenge – a competition for water tech innovation. This is where she met her co-founder, Nicolas Fortin St – Gelais, who was doing his Ph.D. in water quality assessment.
For the Aqua-Hacking challenge, Naysan, Nicolas, and their team prepared a model using existing data and environment functions like precipitation, temperature, and past Escherichia coli sampling values provided by the City of Montreal to predict water quality at city beaches.
The traditional method used by most municipalities is to collect the sample, analyze it in the laboratory, which takes 18 to 24 hours, and then inform the public if a city beach is safe for recreational activities or not. This delay can cause a severe public health crisis. Naysan’s model submitted at the Aqua-Hacking challenge was more accurate than existing methods and not only faster but also predictive.
Naysan and Nicolas won the challenge in 2016 and founded CANN Forecast, and there was no looking back after that.
Impressed by the results of this predictive model, the City of Montreal invited them to implement their model using a more extensive dataset of the city. This is where InteliSwim was born and refined, incorporating several more complex relationships between various variables determining water quality and improving accuracy.
After the success at Montreal, the word spread, and CANN Forecast was approached by neighbouring provinces, so much so that the team had to prioritize the projects to maintain performance and quality.
InteliSwim is now 90% more accurate than traditional methods and is used in urban beaches across Quebec, Ontario, and France.
In 2018, the city of Montreal posed another challenge to CANN Forecast to solve the issue of unexpected pipe breaks, predict the health of water infrastructure, and identify the vulnerable pipes before they leak or rupture. CANN Forecast took up this task and created InteliPipes.
Using historical data and considering the age, material, history of pipes, water network structure, and pressure variations within the network, CANN developed a predictive model using artificial intelligence to accurately identify and predict pipe breaks before they happen. Using the model, the city knows where the water infrastructure is deteriorating and which pipes need to be fixed before they start leaking.
By preventing unexpected pipe breaks, InteliPipe reduced water loss, higher cost of network rehabilitation, and environmental impact for the city.
InteliPipes is up to ten times more accurate than traditional theoretical models and is now successfully used in more than 15 cities in Canada.
CANN Forecast has won several government grants and prestigious international awards, including WWF Canada’s Generation Water Tech Challenge to address freshwater health. The company has not raised any equity funding and is thriving with consistent revenue.
One of the many reasons CANN has seen this meteoric growth is Naysan’s attention and determination to not let the expansion affect the quality of their work. She still works closely with customers providing much more than expected and customizing solutions for each site. Her passion and determination for making a direct contribution to protecting public health and the environment continue to drive her to create innovative water tech solutions. The company is growing and getting ready to service more and more cities worldwide.
If you are looking for water tech solutions and want to learn more about Naysan Saran and her team; please visit their website https://www.cannforecast.com/.