GRIFFIN 2021: Meet Annamaria from Membrane Transporter Engineers

The GRIFFIN Accelerator welcomed six startups to participate in the 3-month intensive program, led by experienced mentors. 2021 marks the eighth year of the program, and each year brings in unique and high-growth potential teams. We’re taking the time to really get to know each team, as these are the startups to watch!

This week we spoke to Annamaria De Rosa, Co-founder of Membrane Transporter Engineers (MTE). Learn about what they do, what they’re proud of and why Canberra is the best place for them (and you!) to actually START your startup.

Tell us about you! Your work, studies, everything!

I’m a plant scientist at the Australian National University (ANU) and co-founder of Membrane Transporter Engineers (MTE). During my PhD and post-doctoral position, I’ve been researching proteins called aquaporins that are essential for plants’ survival. These are super interesting, tiny, selective pores found in plant cell membranes that can act as gatekeepers for the transport of water, nutrients and other important solutes. Recently, myself and two members from the lab I work in, Dr Caitlin Byrt (lab leader) and Dr Samantha McGaughey, founded MTE to translate our latest findings in plant biology to address key challenges faced in the water processing industry for management of wastewater, such as that from mining and agriculture.

What is it about space tech that draws you in?

The space-related challenges I find most exciting are those looking at food production in space, encapsulating technological challenges of efficiently sourcing water and nutrients for plant growth, and growing plants in altered gravity conditions. Advancements in addressing these challenges will have amazing overlap with advancing water and nutrient sourcing and management on earth, as well as greatly progressing current understanding of plant biology.

What is it about water challenges that intrigues you?

Water is central to the survival of all organisms, and globally we have big issues with the sourcing of water for use, as well as with pollution of waterways resulting in detrimental impacts for the environment. What intrigues me about water challenges is the urgency and ubiquitous need for innovations to deliver sustainable advances in water management.

Tell us more about your idea, and the need in the marketplace.

Our team at MTE is working to deliver plant-inspired components for advanced membrane separation technologies that enable industries, such as mining and agriculture, to use and manage water in a more sustainable way. Our membrane separation technology will be deployed in modular filtration units that provide the capability to harvest valuable resources from liquids and create clean-water as a by-product. Our technology creates the opportunity to increase productivity, create cost efficiency, reduce environmental harm and reuse and reduce waste.

What Canberra Innovation Network programs have you participated in to get to where you are today?

Our team, AquaporInSolutions (MTE), participated in the 2020 H2O Hack, and we were fortunate enough to be the winning entry. Since then, we’ve participated in the Idea to Impact workshop, First Wednesday Connect networking events, in the 2020 End-of-Year Showcase and we’re currently going through the GRIFFIN Accelerator program.

Wow, Annamaria. Sounds like you spend more time at CBRIN than anyone! No wonder you’re doing so well 😉 Congrats, and all the best for your continued success.