Anne Sofie Larsen

Super hero name?

The Humanitarian Unicorn

What is your superpower?

The world is facing a water crisis and it is estimated that 1 in 9 people do not have access to safe drinking water. On top of this, more and more water sources are becoming increasingly salty. Removing salt from water is called desalination and produces a toxic waste product called brine. We turn brine into salt, turning a waste stream from the desalination process, into a resource. Furthermore we contribute to a sustainable production of safe drinking water AND promote local job creation, as we are working in displacement settings, hoping to benefit both refugee and host communities.

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What SDG is your organization integrating into its core competency?

We focus mainly on 3 SDG’s:

SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation: creating access to safe drinking water

SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production: helping to produce it responsibly

SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth: promoting local job creation

We implement brine management systems for desalination plants and our specialty is remote, inland areas. Usually, desalination plants are located by the coast, and the brine is then diluted with large amounts of seawater and let back into the ocean. This is not a good solution and is not possible for inland desalination plants. We implement solutions for the local communities, ensuring they feel ownership and are responsible for the sustainable operation of our system. This way we hope to contribute to a stimulation of the local community, both economically, socially and environmentally.

Every hero has a villain – what challenges do you or your targeted group face?

We are working in an arena where there is a shift from humanitarian aid to humanitarian development. This means more long term and sustainable solutions for developing areas. We especially face challenges with implementing sustainable tech solutions that are operated and monitored locally, as this has not been the core focus of humanitarian solutions before. This leads to a lack of interest from investors, because we work in social innovation and label ourselves as HUMANITARIAN unicorns and not as a $ 1 billion unicorn startup.

What are you doing to overcome your villain?

Luckily we have received a lot of traction from both funding, research and mentoring side. There is generally a revolution lying before us in which we have to find new ways of working if we wish to reach the SDGs – and luckily we know many wonderful individuals who can really help us make an impact. We are part of VIS, an innovation project specifically for SME’s working with water, through DTU Environment, which provides us with research and testing facilities. We’ve had traction through Venture Cup and have held keynotes in several courses at DTU. Also, we are working with a masters’ thesis student who is researching how to put together a sustainable implementation plan for the project.

Who is your hero and why?

I have to mention Barney Vajda, my founding partner, first. He is so efficient and has put us in contact with many relevant stakeholders by pure hard work – I really respect and admire that. I would also like to show him my gratitude and I hope calling him “my hero” can be a part of that. He is just the sweetest guy and I feel so lucky to be working alongside him!

If we have to choose an organization, it would probably be Energy4Impact, who works with access to energy in Africa. They have so many cool, successful projects, and a small humanitarian unicorn company like ours have a lot to learn from them as well as hopefully partner up with in the future!

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Fact Box

  • Company name: NoBriner
  • Company type: Private Company
  • Company stage: Research & Testing; big shout out to Claus Hélix-Nielsen and Viggo Aaberg Kærn from DTU Environment/VIS for believing in us! Here we have access to the brightest researchers and students to help us answer our burning questions, while helping us with both theoretical and physical experiments.
  • SDG Focus: SDGs 6, 12 & 8
  • What is needed to succeed? We need mechanical talent to design and build a prototype. When our initial lab tests are done, we will also need funding to actually build it!
  • Impact: 500 + Our pilot project takes place in Kakuma, Kenya, where there are 179.000 refugees.
  • Technology used: An innovative combination of industrials evaporators, evaporation ponds and our own design of a spray nozzle, to maximize the evaporation rate of the brine, leaving us with salt.
  • Number of employees: 2
  • Country: Denmark
  • Website: https://www.nobriner.org
Visit our SDG Tech Awards Denmark 2019 page, where we celebrated other SDG Super Heroes and sustainable solutions in technology!