University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

The Acara Challenge Spring 2009 was the pilot Acara Challenge. Three universities including University of Minnesota, Illinois Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and one high school organization, Leonardo’s Basement participated. The focus area was Clean Water. Seven venture plans were reviewed, and the winning team, Reachout Water Solutions, a joint team of UMN and IIT-Bombay spent time in Mumbai working on their slum water project. Funding was secured but several factors prevented the original team members continuing. The plan is now being picked up and executed by an Acara alumnus from 2010. Above are the plans of all the teams.

Reach Out Water Solutions

The business combines source water storage with UV water treatment and a novel distribution system to supply 50 L of clean, low-cost water to community participants and 10 L of potable water to pay-per-use customers at a reasonable rate.

Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


This proposal addresses the problem of water quality in Mumbai by introducing the WAPI – a small, inexpensive and reusable device that indicates when water has been purified for human consumption – to the potentially massive consumer market of Mumbai slums

Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


The team recognizes rainwater as the largest over­looked supply. In Mumbai alone, rainwater harvesting can contribute up to 25 gallons of water a day to every member of the community throughout the entire year.

Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


This proposal suggests a rainwater harvesting system that provides slum residents with the opportunity to run their own water business. Rainwater is collected during the monsoon by slum residents and by the franchisee owner. This water is stored in 5 gallon plastic bags in the micro-business owner’s residence.

Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


This proposal attempts to take advantage of the natural coagulation properties of the drumstick plant seeds (Sanjana) to clarify water. The drumstick plant can be grown in containers, even in poor growing conditions. A single seed can treat over a liter of water.

Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

Bathe & Save

This proposal suggests a bathing stall franchise system. This system will allow the slum residents to bring their own water, bathe with it, and carry with them re-filtered water – ready for washing clothes, cleaning, or other secondary uses.

Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

Leonardo’s Basement

This high school team provided the judges with an innovative business model and supporting technology to collect human waste from slum areas, use the waste to generate methane at the slum pottery district, and use the excess heat from the pottery ovens to provide purified water which is then supplied back to the slums.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


Acara is the impact entrepreneurship program of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.