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A WATERGEN DEVICE takes the air, produces the water, purifies and mineralizes it, then serves it as pure clean drinking water..(Photo by: Courtesy)
Hillel's Tech Corner: Making water out of air
By HILLEL FULD
05/03/2019
As the expression goes, “You can’t make this stuff up!” Over the years, as I continued to explore the truly incredible Israeli innovation scene, there were a few companies I kept hearing about that made me raise an eyebrow. Companies I had never met but which somehow kept appearing in my Twitter feed when someone was trying to illustrate just how remarkable Israeli entrepreneurs are. Watergen is one such company. A company that makes water out of air? I had to hear more.

Lucky for me, a friend of mine, Elliot Grossbard, recently joined Watergen USA, and I had the chance to catch up to him and hear a little more about this phenomenal company. If I was blown away before I knew the details about Watergen, now that I am a bit more familiar, I am just downright amazed.

Watergen Inc. was founded in 2009 by Arye Kohavi and then expanded into the US with Watergen USA in 2016. Picked by Foreign Policy magazine in 2014 as one of the world’s leading innovators and among the top 100 “global thinkers,” Kohavi founded Watergen as a result of his experience as an IDF Combat Reconnaissance Company commander. He aspired to create special machines that could help troops on the ground who were serving in arid locations and in need of water.

Simply put, there is water all around us, we call it humidity. Watergen takes the air, produces the water, purifies and mineralizes it, then serves it as pure clean drinking water. Sounds like magic, I know.

In a bit more detail, air is drawn into the Watergen atmospheric water generator, where it is thoroughly cleaned, removing any dust and dirt and leaving only pure air in the system. The clean air is then directed through the GENius TM heat exchange and cooling process, bringing it to its dew-point – the temperature at which condensation occurs – to create water. The water is then channeled through a multi-stage filtering system to remove impurities, add minerals, and maintain its health properties and fresh taste. When the water reaches premium quality, it is either stored in a built-in or external reservoir where it is kept fresh through continuous circulation, or connected to the water grid of buildings, neighborhoods and cities, delivering clean water directly to residents’ taps.

So that is Watergen’s technology, but how do they apply it and bring it to market in an actual product? Well, the company has multiple products on the market, all of which have been recognized for their innovation and world-changing potential.

Watergen made a splash (pun very much intended) at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a vehicle created by Watergen’s newly established automotive division. An atmospheric water generator integrated into the car allows passengers to have their very own faucet providing them with pure, safe drinking water while they travel.

CES attendees were also introduced to Watergen’s “GENNY,” a water generator suited for homes and offices. The machine was selected by the Consumer Technology Association to be the “Best of Innovation Honoree” in the “Tech for a Better World” category at this year’s CES. The award is given to the innovation that scores the highest and as being the most impressive in a respective category.

Weighing 50 kilograms, the GENNY can use ambient air to produce between 25 to 30 liters of water per day. Like the automotive atmospheric water generator, the GENNY helps to reduce the use of plastic bottles for water supply.

“As opposed to buying a liter of water from the store for a dollar, the GENNY uses air to create that liter of water for only two cents,” Watergen USA president Yehuda Kaploun said during CES.

WATERGEN’S MEDIUM-SCALE generator, the GEN-350, is another one of the company’s products. The machine, which can make 900 liters of water per day, is easily transportable and can be installed without difficulty in locations that are not easily accessible. In India, Watergen’s GEN-350 has provided thousands of residents in Kerala, a region that faced the wrath of disastrous monsoons last summer, with a critical supply of fresh water.

The GEN-350 has also came to the aid of those in developed countries. An emergency response vehicle from Watergen brought the GEN-350 to firefighters and emergency responders who were battling the devastating fires in California last autumn.

Watergen also produces large-scale atmospheric water generators that can make as much as 5,000 liters of clean water per day. Installable on rooftops, the devices are specially designed to provide water on an industrial scale, allowing for factories, city buildings and rural communities to have instant access to pure, clean water. Watergen came to the rescue after Hurricane Irma in the summer of 2017, by donating these large-scale generators to FEMA and the American Red Cross.

Watergen’s ongoing efforts to make clean water available to all parts of the globe earned the company its place on the World Economic Forum’s list of the world’s top technology pioneers in 2018. Watergen president Dr. Michael Mirilashvili had this to say, “It is the birthright of every person in this world to enjoy the most basic human necessity of clean and pure drinking water, regardless of geographical location, skin color or religious belief.”

Watergen’s focus changed direction after Mirilashvili invested tens of millions of dollars into the company and became controlling shareholder in 2015. As a philanthropist who serves as president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and who supports a variety of institutions and organizations like Yad Vashem, Mirilashvili wanted the special technology to be used for humanitarian and civilian purposes. He also saw such direction as an opportunity to show how Israeli innovation is changing lives around the world.

Since Mirilashvili became primary shareholder, the company has worked with governments around the world, helping them solve their respective water crises. Executives and senior officials of the company have met with US President Donald Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and many other world leaders. Currently, the company employs approximately 80 people in Israel and in Watergen USA. The company is now concentrated on developing mass production plants around the world in order to meet the significant demand for its home-use machines, as well as large-scale machines for governments and local municipalities.

When I speak about Israeli technology, I often address the many components of the ecosystem. I talk about Israeli success stories like Waze, Mobileye and SodaStream. I talk about the billions of dollars being poured into Israeli start-ups from global venture capitalists. I talk about the truly spectacular creativity that many Israeli entrepreneurs possess. I talk about the Israeli businesses that are expanding rapidly; companies like Monday.com, SimilarWeb, Appsflyer, WalkMe, and so many others.

Then, I wrap up my talk. The punchline is how all of that is nice, but what brings the most pride to Israeli technology are the companies truly making the world a better place by means of technology. Companies developing cancer treatments, companies solving the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and companies bringing water to places that have never even seen running water before.

Now that I am a little more familiar with Watergen and its phenomenal technology, I know which company I will use as my closing line to ensure I leave the audience in awe of just how impactful Israeli technology can be on a global scale.

Talk about making magic happen out of thin air.
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