Milwaukee-Based Incubator Brews Up Innovations With an Eye On Global Water Challenges

The Water Council has joined forces with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to establish a global, but local, freshwater seed accelerator program called The BREW (Business, Research, and Entrepreneurship In Wisconsin).

The Water Council’s “The BREW” Logo
The Water Council’s “The BREW” Logo

The Water Council is a Milwaukee, Wisc.-based, organization focused on convening existing water companies and research clusters, developing education programs to train talent, and building partnerships to enable innovations that aim to solve global water challenges. As part of its mission to support the development of new talent and innovation, The Water Council has joined forces with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to establish a global, but local, freshwater seed accelerator program called The BREW (Business, Research, and Entrepreneurship In Wisconsin).

The BREW's stated goal is to provide an incubator for unique water technology startups, expand the global water hub, and create opportunity in the water industry.


A subsidiary of French company Le Prieure, Vegetal i.D. is a participant in The BREW program. A pioneer in the manufacture and design of green roof systems in both Europe and North America, Vegetal i.D. has been a specialist in urban vegetation for 20 years (green roofs, stormwater management, and low maintenance urban development). The company has more than 5 million square feet of its proprietary green roof solution installed worldwide.

“The exposure and networking we’ve experienced through The BREW are the biggest benefits we’ve received from the program,” says Brennon Garthwait, stormwater management specialist with Vegetal i.D.

Officials in the company’s Batavia, NY-headquarters learned that The Water Council was accepting applications to The BREW’s inaugural 2013 program through trade media. “For us, the draw was definitely the opportunity to connect with other industry experts,” says Garthwait.

Vegetal i.D. has made the most of its participation in The BREW. In addition to space in the Global Water Center in Milwaukee and a $50,000 grant from WEDC for startup costs, Vegetal i.D. received access to top industry and business talent.

Vegetal i.D.’s green roof solution is designed to help control stormwater runoff to protect municipal water management systems. UW-Milwaukee is helping the company test the product’s efficacy, while UW-Whitewater is assisting with a cost-benefit analysis that can be used to market the Vegetal i.D.'s green roof solution to building owners. Vegetal i.D. has also received funding from the Fund for Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, where four testing plots have been installed.

Another BREW participant, pHinding Solutions, is a Madison-based startup that was accepted into The BREW’s second class this year. “Through connections with The Water Council and other BREW participants, we want to gain a better understanding of the water industry and how we can position our technology to serve its needs,” says pHinding Solutions COO, Zach Munns.

pHinding Solutions company founder Nick Jones says changing demographics within academic research labs are driving a need for more technology to streamline operations. With help from Munns and another business partner, Brad James, pHinding Solutions is developing software that will automate the collection of lab data, eliminating a manual process that plagues current research testing. “It’s a ‘Business 2.0’ solution for laboratories,” explains Munns.

Munns heard about The BREW through his business contacts, including WEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship, Lisa Johnson. The company was accepted into the program in July 2014 and was given subsidized space in the Global Water Center in September. Company representatives are currently receiving business model and operations training, a key component of The BREW’s accelerator approach, provided by UW-Whitewater’s Institute for Water Business.

Elizabeth Thelen, director of entrepreneurship and talent for The Water Council, says applications to The BREW doubled after its first year, a fact that she attributes to the growing awareness of the council and the success of the first year’s program.

For more inforation and to learn how you can apply for The BREW program, visit

Kelly Lietz is the vice president of marketing and communications for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Wisconsin’s lead economic development organization.

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