Generation Water: This StartUp Is Turning Air Into Water… And Saving On Millions of Plastic Bottles
As the world’s water shortage crisis becomes increasingly urgent, the race is on to find solutions. While the world is covered by 70 per cent water, only three per cent of our planet’s water is ‘freshwater’ and suitable for drinking or crops irrigation.
Currently around 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year, according to figures from the World Wildlife Fund (WFF). Thailand-based businessman Ryan Kohler is one of a new generation of change makers who is addressing the global water shortage challenge with innovative technology.
The unique ‘Generation Water water-from-air system uses condensation technology to extract moisture from the air and transform it into potable water. His system also allows establishments, such as hotels or offices, to dispense of the water in reusable glass bottles, which eliminates the need for harmful plastic containers.
Kohler tells Impact4All, “The whole reason we started Generation Water was to overcome water scarcity and plastic pollution. There is a lack of access to safe drinking water and the changing climate means the world is experiencing droughts in places such as Thailand, Cape Town, California and India – so there’s an innate need for an alternative to the traditional water supply.”
He adds: “Also, in meeting the demand for drinking water, a lot of people are resorting to plastic bottles as a source of drinking water which has a huge impact when you look at the amount of plastic that ends up in our ocean.”
Currently Generation Water has a team of six directors, who have all moved from their respective countries to Phuket in Thailand where Generation Water has bagged its first project – JW Marriott.
Kohler says: “Our COO is from Germany, our Customer Experience Officer is from Australia, and our CTO and myself are from South Africa. We’ve got other engineers coming from all over the world. It’s diverse from a nationality perspective, we’re coming from different countries to make this happen.”
The Marriott cluster in northern Phuket is home to four hotels and 692 rooms and the combined cluster was consuming – and discarding – 1.5 million of bottles of water annually. Generation Water has been brought on board to supply the chain with eco-friendly water that reduces the amount of plastic waste, while improving the guest experience and brand standards.
“Being in a semi-remote location the logistical overheads and cost of providing Marriott’s guests and staff with premium drinking water were significant,” Kohler says.
In collaboration with Marriott’s operational, marketing and engineering staff, Generation Water designed a turnkey solution. The solution produces up to 75,000 litres of water per month and bottles into customised 500 mil glass bottles.
Kohler says the Marriott’s water costs have been driven down by more than 10 per cent. The hotel is also able to cut out the supply chain and simply create water where it’s needed. He says: “The glass bottles that go into the room and functions is produced by the solution on site. In Thailand, you can’t drink from the taps, so all the resorts provide water into the rooms that we produce on site from the air. In doing that, there’s a huge water saving impact.”
The entrepreneur says the concept of straining water from the air has been around ‘a long time’. “But what we’ve done is taken it a step further, increased the efficiency and put it into a real-world application where we can actually purify and mineralise that water and put it into glass bottles for hotels and large organisations where they require a lot of drinking water,” Kohler says.
The Generation Water founder says that the solution is the first of its kind in the world and his company will soon be rolling out the solution to the rest of the Marriott’s Thai resorts.
“We’ve also got a bunch of other hotel groups that are interested in these types of solutions. That current solution works as a pilot project and the plans are now to expand that out to the rest of Thailand and the world.”
Kohler says that water saving technology can also contribute to global energy conservation. “There’s a major reduction in energy needed to produce the bottles of water that we produce. Rather than ordering in mineral water from Italy or the like, there’s no logistics needed. There is also a large energy component to producing the plastic bottle, that’s very energy intensive, which we again mitigate through our process.
Generation Water is currently funded privately, largely through private equity. “We were bootstrapped for quite a long time in the earlier days but with the additional funding requirements, we went out to the market, we got private funding from a local company within Thailand and also from other private equity investors from Singapore and America.”
Kohler says his next project in Thailand will provide a group of ‘25 hotels’ with water. From there, the company is set to go global.
“Our target is to run completely off wind and solar. That’s when we will make even more of a difference,” he says. “Our goal is to remove one billion plastic bottles per year within the next five years.”