Detroit, over the last century most notably is known as the Automotive Capital of the World. What if Detroit over the next century added another impressive title to its repertoire: Water innovation Hub of the World. Detroit is at the center of 21% of the World’s and 84% of the country’s fresh surface water supply. Over 5 billion gallons of water pass through the Detroit River each hour and this system of water supplies water to over 30 million people in the region.
According to Popular Science, the longtime publication about science, technology and more, Michigan will be the United States’ most-desired state to live in by 2100. The finding is based upon abundance of fresh water, weather patterns, temperatures and potential for natural disasters. Over the last century Detroit and the world has taken water for granted. Water truly is our greatest asset and Detroit is well positioned to become the thought leader on water innovation and commercialization. The world is and will be demanding greater access to our water supply and there are a number of visionaries in the region who are working to prepare the region for when that time comes.
Greg McPartlin, CEO and Co- Founder of Parjana Distribution, is one of those visionaries who is leading numerous initiatives to position Detroit as thought leaders and innovators in the water space. McPartlin believes that it all begins with education and developing a culture of innovation and risk taking. A culture that considers failing simply learning and is focused on “what if’ instead of “why not”. He’s been collaborating over the last six years on numerous initiatives that include a “Water based, Placed based, Stem based Educational Initiative” that can educate and inspire our children to become future thought leaders in the water space.
At the same time, he is developing a vision on how Detroit can become the innovation hub for water innovation and commercialization. Metro Detroit has produced an extraordinary number of innovators — some iconic, some unheralded. They forever changed the way we look at manufacturing, products, processes and services. Innovation — finding new solutions and building upon existing ideas — is critical to the evolution of a society and innovation is what has defined Detroit’s history. Innovation McPartlin believes needs to define our future.
Detroit is the first for so many things, beginning with the fur trade. In fact, Parjana’s Headquarters is on the corner of Grand River and Library Street which used to be the Annis Fur Factory, now the LB King building. Listening to McPartlin speak about Detroit, his passion exudes from the core of his being. Water is his “Why” in his professional life and he believes that together we can create a better future for our city and the world. He describes last century Detroit as being defined as the automobile and manufacturing powerhouse and is adamant this coming century needs to be defined upon water. McPartlin believes Henry Ford did not only mass produce the automobile, he truly created a paradigm shift! “This paradigm shift was realized because he had the vision and fortitude to see it through to his reality.”
Parjana which he sees as well as a paradigm shift is the core of McPartlin’s vision. McPartlin co-founded Parjana in 2012 in the heart of Downtown Detroit. The name Parjana is derived from the Hindu God of thunderstorm and rain and Parjana is the process that originally brought water thus life to the earth.
Parjana in simplistic terms conditions the soil and enables the earth to capture rain when and where it falls. Parjana via bio mimicry- which is the study of how Mother Nature solves problems developed and patented in essence an “Artificial Tree Root”. Parjana’s innovative energy passive technology has no operating or maintenance costs. By accelerating infiltration into and through near surface soils it increases the volume of stormwater that can be stored, infiltrated and ultimately recharged into the earth natural cycle. The surface water that would have pooled or run off is captured below grade, filtered, and thereby improves water quality, reduces flooding and mitigates standing water. Thus, mitigating the variances between flooding and drought events.
The implications and applications are only limited by ones imagination. Parjana’s greatest challenge at times is that the technology is so simple, some cannot believe no one has ever thought of it before. Some of the greatest innovations though, are the simplest ones.
Parjana began operating out of a Coney Island restaurant and now is working on projects all over the world with their strongest markets being the United Kingdom, Chicago and California.
It’s a daunting task to start a new business; let alone marketing a disruptive technology that threatens the current market structure as Parjana had to do. Parjana favorite Einstein quote is “WE CANNOT SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS WITH THE SAME THINKING WE USED WHEN WE CREATED THEM”
On a micro local level storm water is one of the greatest economic challenges today in our region and the traditional approach to storm water management is currently just not sustainable. Developing innovative approaches to storm water management to mitigate the storm bills in the region should be a priority to leaders in the region. McPartlin says we need to realize we will never build enough infrastructure to manage the heavens. That the future of storm water will be managing rain when and where it falls. On a macro level Parjana is a paradigm shifting disruptive technology that could forever change the way the world manages water, the food supply and thus the human population.
Though Parjana’s innovative simplistic approach has met with plenty of skeptics over the years, they have now built a foundation of thought leaders in the market place who believe in Parjana’s technology. Parjana has now received regulatory permits from both the MDEQ and the EPA and now has engineering firms confident enough with their technology to make the Parjana technology a part of their engineered stamped designs on specific projects. Parjana has been featured in Forbes magazine as well as numerous publications throughout the region and the country. The Federal Aviation Administration has even released a white paper on the Parjana technology and they have been coordinating research with MSU and Lawrence Tech.
McPartlin believes that there is no greater sense of accomplishment then taking a skeptic and turning that person into a believer! Though he has numerous converts he knows that the world is full of skeptics yet he is confident that in time the masses will accept the paradigm shift that the Parjana represents. Parjana’s overall vision as a company from a humanitarian perspective is to mitigate surface water. If you can mitigate surface water, you mitigate surface water diseases such as malaria, cholera and dysentery. Bill gates spends billions of dollars per year trying to cure 37 surface water diseases. Imagine the implications of a simplistic solution that mitigates surface water from a humanitarian perspective.
Steve Jobs quote I believe sums McPartlin and his team best; “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”