Floating Island Patent Portfolio Combines Clean and Green


Floating Island International (FII) is a Montana-based company that has developed technology for creating islands that can effectively support plant and animal life (full disclosure:  FII is a client of my firm and FII CEO Bruce Kania agreed to be interviewed for this post).

The company’s BioHaven® floating islands help maintain the health of wetland ecosystems through a “concentrated” wetland effect, i.e., higher removal rates of nitrate, phosphate and ammonia as well as reduction of  total suspended solids and dissolved organic carbon in waterways.

According to Kania, what differentiates FII from other floating treatment wetland providers is that FII’s islands are made of massive biofilm grown within a matrix that includes microbes and their residue, with high volumes of trapped biogas.  Put another way, the company’s floating islands “incorporate nature’s models to solve problems with water.”

While other floating island technologies achieve buoyancy through use of buoyant chambers in a raft, FII used either buoyant nodules or foam sealant interspersed within the matrix.

FII’s patent portfolio includes a number of worldwide patent families focusing on different aspects of the company’s technology, including:

U.S. Patent Nos. 8,327,579 and 8,250,808 and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2011/0146559 (’559 Application), each entitled ”Super enhanced, adjustably buoyant floating island.”  These patents and applications are directed to floating islands comprising at least one layer of water-permeable, non-woven mesh material and including different innovative features for achieving and adjusting the buoyancy of the islands, such as pressure injected foam sealant.  Figure 4 of the ‘ 559 Application is reproduced here:

Fig.-4

U.S. Patent No. 8,372,277, entitled “Floating treatment streambed,” is directed to a floating streambed including a circulation pump and treatment channels made of a permeable matrix.  The water entering the treatment channels flows both horizontally through the treatment channel and into the water body and also vertically downward through the permeable matrix of the treatment channels.

U.S. Patent 7,784,218 is entitled “Combination cell foam floating island” and directed to a floating island comprising a flat sheet insert in the matrix layers of the island that traps gas underneath the insert.  A representative figure is reproduced below:

Fig.-10 U.S. Patent No. 8,132,364, entitled Highly buoyant and semi-rigid floating islands,” is directed to an island made of two modules where each module has a semi-rigid internal frame, a bottom layer, and a semi-permeable top layer.  The island has a planting pocket disposed between the first and second modules and supported by the semi-rigid frames.

U.S. Patent No. 7,810,279 is entitled “Buoyant wetland system” and directed to a simulated wetland system that includes a plant habitat that is normally submerged and has a first and second buoyant blanket assembly.  Each buoyant blanket assembly comprises a non-woven mat that includes buoyant bodies.  The plant habitat is comprised of a container of a non-woven mat  that encircles a portion of growth medium.  A representative figure is reproduced below:
FIG.-2FII’s patent portfolio forms the foundation of the company and is critical for its success spreading its technology around the world.  As Kania told me, “without IP and an ability to enjoy a limited monopoly on behalf of its license holders, our ability to forward in the undeveloped world is minimal.”

The company has entered into a number of licensing deals.  Partners and potential partners are “intrigued and energized for a clean tech solution to water quality issues.”  FII’s licensees include a variety of people and business entities that have business dealings around water, particularly wetland work, but also include companies involved in plastics recycling and stone masonry.

Though FII’s path is a “departure from conventional green technology efforts” because it’s not about renewables or conservation per se, its technology is making an impact and is most definitely green.



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