Underwater works: Watertracks will set up in Bouillargues

Watertracks conçoit, fabrique et exploite le robot Nessie.

Posted Oct 3, 2022 9:11 AMUpdated on Oct 3, 2022 at 9:12 am

The start-up Watertracks, which designs, manufactures and markets giant underwater robots capable of ecologically extracting the sediments deposited at the bottom of the artificial lakes of hydroelectric dams, will leave Pérols and Lunel, in the Hérault, for Bouillargues, in the Gard, indicates the co-founder, Raphaël Gaillard. “We are in the process of acquiring 8,500 m2 of land, to build 1,000 m2 of workshops and set up the design office there”, he confides. A remote control center for robots, as well as an international training center, are also planned.

The construction site should start in 2023, for delivery in 2024. The investment amounts to approximately 1.5 million euros. The project is supported by the economic development department of Nîmes Métropole. “The location is interesting, because we are closer to Marseille, where some of our employees come from, while remaining close to Lunel, where we have also recruited. »

A 15 ton robot

Composed of elements from offshore underwater robotics and the defense sector, the Nessie robot weighs 15 tons, with XXL dimensions: 7 meters long, 5 meters wide and 4 meters high. Its intervention must make it possible to erase the effect of a dam on the sediments. The sediments pumped upstream of the dams are returned downstream, “respecting the natural thresholds and diluting the sludge and sediment pumped via injection into the turbine water”, specifies Raphaël Gaillard, partner with Frédéric Gauch.

Watertracks designs, manufactures (with a network of SMEs in Languedoc) and operates the robot, in a logic of rental with driver. For now, Nessie is wire-guided. That is to say that operators, installed in a control cabin on the bank, guide the robot. The objective is to make the equipment more autonomous in the medium term.

At the beginning of the year, Watertracks raised 1.2 million euros from Sofilaro (subsidiary of Crédit Agricole du Languedoc) and Captain Watt (chaired by Jean-Marc Bouchet) to accelerate commercial development.

A nine-year framework agreement has been signed with EDF for the operation of several robots in the lakes of hydroelectric dams. The start-up wants to export, “especially in the Alps, which has stable sedimentary activity, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland”.

On February 3, Watertracks won the “Territorial Innovation” prize and the Grand Jury Prize at the Les Inn’Ovations regional competition, organized by the regional agency Ad’Occ and the Occitanie Region. Watertracks should achieve 1 million euros in turnover in 2022 and is aiming for 3 million euros for the next financial year. The SME employs 15 people.


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