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Maithri Aquatech’s water generators just need air to produce freshwater

This Hyderabad-based startup has developed an atmospheric water generator that can be the panacea to our water scarcity woes.

, ET Online|
Updated: Dec 14, 2019, 12.42 PM IST
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Maithri has installations in many Army/ Navy (establishments), hospitals, IT industry, and public sector units, including in hundreds of citizens’ homes. (In Pic: M Ramkrishna, founder, Maithri Aquatech)
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Do you know, there are an estimated 3.1 quadrillion gallons of water in the atmosphere at any given time? Yes, that’s a fact. Our atmosphere does contain such a mammoth mass of water in the form of tiny water droplets and humidity that it is more than enough to take care of the country’s water needs. To put it in perspective, the amount of water in the atmosphere roughly equals to all the water in the Lake Superior, the world's largest freshwater lake by surface area, and the third-largest freshwater lake by volume.

Much of this is untapped, but new technology looks to harness this vast reservoir and ensure its put to good use. In India, Hyderabad-based Maithri Aquatech’s is attempting to produce fresh, potable water through its range of innovative Atmospheric Water Generators (AWG).

A brainchild of M Ramkrishna (53), the unique startup, by putting the abundant air around us to work, is certainly addressing an acute global problem.

“The atmosphere holds a lot of moisture, which is free for the taking and this moisture is an everlasting source of water. The water that evaporates from the ocean is 850 billion litres in a single day which is nearly equivalent to 60 days of mankind requirement of water. By extracting this water, we not only get pure drinking water, but also save our groundwater,” says Ramkrishna, who launched his aquatech firm in 2016.

Source of life
Ramkrishna recalls how for quite a while, he remained a witness to people’s suffering due to the unavailability of potable water. Thinking out of the box and determined to turn around the status quo, he decided to address the issue with a new path-breaking approach.

Following a period of intensive research, he realized the ideal solution to this problem should also be a self-sustaining one. That’s when he figured out the ultimate solution to this problem was actually staring at his face - the air.

The company claims that its flagship product called Meghdoot (which in Sanskrit means ‘messenger of the sky’) is a low-cost AWG that uses refrigeration techniques to condense humidity from the air and turn them into 100% microbe-free, fully potable mineralized water conforming to WHO as well as relevant Indian standards.

A typical AWG machine, like the one by Maithri, uses refrigeration techniques to condense this humidity from the air. “Air is sucked into the system through an electrostatic filter. Subsequently, cooled coils located in the path of air provide a temperature differential between the air and the coil surface resulting in condensation. Water is then passed through various filters to remove solids and to remove any odour and any bacterial content. The water produced is pure and free of any biological/chemical contamination,” asserts Ramkrishna, adding the water produced is additionally treated with Ozone as a preventative measure.

With raw material i.e., air, being available free of cost, AWG is also an environmentally friendly technology which results in no water wastage like RO, desalination systems. Also, the technology does not require an existing source of water for producing clean water like a conventional Reverse Osmosis (RO) system. It simply produces water, when there is no water.

Machine at Rameswaram near APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial 2.

“The machine has two air filters of 12 microns and 1 micron to remove and suspended particles in the air. Bottled water in many cases is filtered city water processed in a manufacturing plant. Other bottled water is ‘spring’ water and there are no guarantees that it is truly pure and contaminant free,” he argues.

So, is it expensive to produce water with an AWG? Certainly not, says Ram. “Only 0.3 units of energy are consumed to produce 1 litre of water of the highest quality. On an average, 1 litre of highest quality water would cost less than Rs 2, which is very economical for the quality of water produced,” he contends.

“The concept and design of the equipment to make use of atmospheric moisture as a source of drinking water is highly appreciable and eco-friendly. We found the results are highly encouraging for both drinking and other application,” says Ashok Muni, Advisor, Environment Protection and Training Institute.

Addressing urbanisation’s spillover
The world is facing a huge water crisis, which is growing with every passing day. Climatic changes leading to irregular rainfall, rapid urbanization, industrialization, inefficient practices in agriculture and lack of conservation of depleting water resources are some of the reasons leading to this worldwide emergency in water.

Also, with demand for water is already far more than the supply, India remains one of the most water-stressed countries globally. According to a recent report by Niti Aayog, twenty-one of the major cities in India, including Bangalore, Hyderabad - are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020.

Chennai is already experiencing Day Zero with many software companies asking their employees to work from home because of paucity of water at work place. Amid such a backdrop, typical of Indian metros and cities, there is a tremendous scope for AWG as a commercial product in India, feels Ramkrishna.

Riding high on its unique brand differentiation, Maithri, with a headcount of just 15 employees, has so far been able to garner huge traction. The company already has installations in many Army/ Navy (establishments), hospitals, IT industry, and public sector units, including in hundreds of citizens’ homes. Interestingly, a sizable number of such installations are in Chennai where people have lately been suffering due to the non-availability of water. The firm has also signed an MOU with Bharat Electronics for jointly manufacturing Meghdoot for meeting the requirements of the defence sector.

“We are happy with Mehdoot’s performance. It was able to perform better than expected and believe this to be of great use for the Indian Navy,” says Commander Karthik, Indian Naval Service (INS HANSA), Goa.

To ensure that that the water generated is 100% potable, the company tied up with the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) which has also helped it in developing a re-mineralization technology for it. “Today with IICT support, customized dosing is possible, which is a patented technology. This makes Maithri the world’s first air to water technology, having the capability to do customized dosing of minerals," Ramkrishna adds.

While the company aims to cater to the requirements of water-stressed regions in the country first before expanding its footprints to other water-stressed regions of the world, it has already seen tremendous traction around its innovative product with inquiries coming in from different parts of the world.

Eying a revenue target of Rs 100 crores for the next fiscal year, Africa, Middle-East and South-East Asia remain high on Maithri’s list of regions, where it intends to expand its footprints in the next 4-5 years.

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