Instant clean water from any container
Pitch us on your solution
Lack of clean drinking water still affects a billion people worldwide due to rapid population growth and the lack of investment in centralized potable water infrastructure. The UN and the World Health Organization have proposed the use of point of use household treatment and safe storage of water as a way to meet the global SDGs. We are designing and developing household level water purifiers that are very effective against waterborne pathogens, they are easy to install, as they can be fitted into existing containers, they are very easy to use and even children can operate them, and they are low cost to make them affordable to low income families. We aim to reduce the burden of waterborne diseases like diahrrea, cholera, hepatitis E, etc. which should lead in an improvement in the health of people, specially children, so that they can improve their wellbeing and lead productive lives.
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What is the problem you are solving?
According to Unicef, two out of five households, that is 38.3% of the population, in Bangladesh drink water from sources already contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and viruses. But due to poor hygiene practices at households, the number of people drinking water with microbial contamination jumps to 99 million. According to a Worldbank report E. coli bacteria was present in 80 percent of private piped-water taps sampled across the country, a similar rate to water retrieved from ponds. So it is not only rural areas that are prone to waterborne diseases but also many urban areas, specially if they are densely populated. This is mainly due to a lack of centralised water treatment infrastructure and a secure distribution of potable water. Drinking water quality gets compromised from the source all the way to the consumer. This is even more acute in the case of water wells and rural surface water sources. In many cases people are not aware about the water quality they consume and in other cases there is no awareness that drinking contaminated water can cause harm and diseases.
Who are you serving?
We have not yet executed our project in Bangladesh, but we have discussed with professional staff from international NGOs like MSF and Oxfam about the need for portable point of use water filters in Bangladesh and in other countries that have a similar water situation. For example in Mozambique, Lebanon and Kenya our innovation process starts with prototyping and testing our ideas with the end users and with experienced staff to fully meet the requirements and local needs of the end users. We believe that end users are part of the design process and are fully satisfied with the end products so that product adoption can scale and finally make a positive impact in their health.
Our solution addresses the needs from vulnerable people who are in many cases forced to drink contaminated water because they lack the economic or physical resources or the skills and knowledge to solve this issue. We offer an option that empowers end users who might not be able to access a centralized potable water source in their lifetimes due to lack of investments from public institutions and help solve this issue in a way that is affordable and simple to install and use.
What is your solution?
We design and develop instant purification devices that do not require additional energy or chemicals to make clean drinking water. They can be reused hundreds of times. They are affordable (less than US$0.01 per liter) and practical to use.
Our first product is a very small water purifier that can be screwed into existing soda plastic bottles as a way for people to grab water from different natural sweet water sources such as lakes, rivers, ponds, rain or tap water and remove pathogens, bacteria and sediment like E.coli and make it safer to drink.
The new design that we are prototyping is also a small water purifier that is fitted into a small hand pump which can be installed into existing containers. It comes as a kit for people to install it also in other ways like at the tap or to a rain water collection tank.
We combine the latest technologies such polymeric membranes, nanomaterials (nanoalumina), activated carbon fibers impregnated with chemically specific adsorbants, into very small form factors maintaining an optimal flow rate, balancing the performance, life of the product as well as the costs to effectively remove pathogens like bacteria, protozoa, cysts and even viruses. We incorporate fast prototyping tools like 3D printing to test our designs and to reduce the innovation lifecycle.
The project started as an open source hardware project and we have incorporated this philosophy and collaboration culture to innovate in a much faster and more efficient way. We openly collaborate with designers and engineers, research universities and non profit organizations to improve and test our products. Founded as a social enterprise our mission is to provide the best and most affordable water technologies to empower people to clean water at the point of use, creating a positive impact in their health as we as the environment.
Faircap has been initially supported by Elrha's Humanitarian Innovation Fund and UK Aid. The technologies we have developed to provide safe clean drinking water during emergencies is now being adapted to people living under more stable environment which are also facing similar challenges due to the increase in the population and the limited resources that cities have to improve their water supply infrastructure.
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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Barcelona, Spain
In which sector would you categorize your solution?
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Some of the simplest techniques involve boiling water or adding chlorine. Boiling water requires time, energy and burning of fossil fuels which adds CO2 to the atmosphere and makes a household's air supply dangerous causing lung problems. Dosing the correct amount of chlorine is difficult as it evaporates and its concentration diminishes according to the level of organic matter dissolved in the water. It could also cause negative health issues in the long run.
In terms of other purifying equipment designed for households, the devices are bulky, which adds to the logistics costs, have a slow flow rate, do not get rid of all bacteria or viruses and are many times too costly.
Our design solves all of these issues with a small form factor that comes as a kit to save on additional material and logistics costs, so that it can be installed into a plastic container, a water tank or a sink. It has a much higher flow rate than ceramic gravity filters (1-2 liters per minute against 2-4 liters per hour for gravity filters), gets rid of bacteria and viruses and we aim to make this kit for less than US$10 and about US$15 at retail price.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
We have piloted Faircap in different settings and with different types of users, from very young and highly educated consumers in Europe and the US to very low income people in Peru andn Kenya and even refugees in humanitarian settings with different cultural, socioeconomic backgrounds in Lebanon, Syria and Uganda. In all these pilots the common variable to the adoption of the solution was the intuitive way of using the product, since it is similar as drinking water from a bottle or from a tap in the case of the family format. Having a technology in such a small, personal and easy to use format made it more easy for people to understand the workings of the technology and build more trust for a long term and continued use, which can end up impacting their health by reducing waterborne diseases.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We have started piloting the final products and new designs and prototypes during 2019, we are installing 200-300 family water purification kits to conduct a larger user feedback study. We have received interest from Unicef to quote up to 20,000 units to support migrant refugees from Venezuela traveling along South America. We are aming at producing in larger volumes in a year to reach 50,000 users. We expect to be serving 5 to 10 million people in the next 5 years, with a number of those in countries like Bangladesh where there is still a large need.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our goal within the next year is to gather more real life evidence of the potential impact that our solutions can have to improve people's lifes. We are conducting more trials, developing tests and improving the designs as well as working on our communications to document and show the potential that our business model and our products are able to achieve. We are doing this collaboratively with research institutions like the University of Barcelonas Virus Contaminants labs or the Technical University of Berlin and health organizations working in water and sanitation such as MSF and Oxfam. Within the next five years we hope to be a reference solution in the humanitarian sector for providing household point of use solutions and move onto a consumer and residential market in developing countries like large urban and unattended populations. We aim to continue working in both the humanitarian and bottom of the pyramid population partnering with non profits and develop a strong brand and distribution network for the low to middle income residential developing country market. Our vision is to provide clean drinking water to all regardless of income disparities and help solve an issue that will become more urgent due to climate change and population growth.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
During the next year we are focused on improving the design of the family format to make it more long lasting and develop an initial distribution network based on the current contacts we have with non profit organizations, direct channels and distributors. In the next 5 years our challenge will be to scale up the team, product development, marketing and the logistics, while financing the operations both with sales, research grants and impact funding.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We are using our previous experience into developing a final product from scratch to develop a better product for household settings. From design thinking, fast prototyping and lean manufacturing we plan to have a new set of products in a year ready to market. We have also more pilots planned and organized for this year which will help us develop contacts and start developing an initial distribution network. in the next 5 years we plan to grow the team to manage the growth, we are in the process of applying to new funding from foundations for research and development and we hope to have our US patent application granted to fundraise private capital from impact investment funds. Having growing sales will be critical so we will focus on marketing making use of online and social marketing as well as partnering with medium to large companies. We have for instance signed such a partnership with a German glass bottle social company to develop a custom version of our product to their ecological bottles, with sales of over 200,000 units per year.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Bangladesh?
The first phase to be conducted in Bangladesh is to test our current designs with end users from different socioeconomic backgrounds to understand the specifici cultural needs and adapt our design to those needs. The second phase will be to manufactured the improved design so that we can service a large portion of the population that has the need for clean drinking water. The third phase will be developing a distribution network, working both with NGOs who support low income households or in humanitarian settings and also commercial channels to attend the low to middle income population.
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Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
We are four people in the team. Two people working full time and two on a part time basis as a core team. We also work with a number of contributors and partners of the project. As an open innovation project that started in the maker community we collaborate with more designers and engineers to come up with the best solutions. We collaborate with experienced staff working in humanitarian and development settings to get feeback and support.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our team has a long experience in social entrepreneurship, finance, marketing and design.
Mauricio Cordova, founder. Experience at Intel Corp. MSc degree from the London School of Economics. BA at UT Austin. 10 years of experience starting up companies and social projects.
Guillian Graves, designer. Guillian has worked in various design projects, he teaches at Paris top design school Les Ateliers and at the Laussane Polytechnical Institute in Switzerland.
Cintia Cernadas, designer. Cintia has a degree in design and renovation and is a talented product and graphic designer focused on eco design.
Ximena Gamarra, marketing. Has a degree in business and a Masters in Design and Art management. She managed the social responsability program of a mining company.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
We partner with non profit organizations like Oxfam to receive technical feedback and we will be partnering with MSF soon. Both of these organizations have a deep experience in working in humanitarian and disaster relief, and we have received many positive feedback, comments and advice regarding our solutions.
With Oxfam we have a formal agreement as part of the humanitarian innovation grant we received to manufacture the first designs. With MSF we are applying to research grants jointly.
In Bangladesh we are partnering with a German NGO Ascend Global which have been working developing rain water collection projects in the South.
What is your business model?
Our business model relies on collaborations with different organizations to provide a solution that satisfies end users. We serve humanitarian relief and development organizations on one side and low to middle income households in developing countries on the other side. In terms of revenues we apply for research grants and innovation contests to prototype and manufacture the initial models and test them with end users, to finally distribute these products among NGOs. Revenues from sales will come from selling our products to distributors and in retail channels. Our main products are the Faircap Mini filter for bottles and the Faircap HandyPump filter for families. In the case of the Faircap Mini filter for bottles we have a buy one/give one model in which higher income consumers in Europe or the US purchase one filter for travelling or outdoor sports and they give a family filter to a partner NGO. We are also designing a version for cities in developed countries where water might be safe to drink but the taste is not acceptable due to high levels of chlorine. We are looking at distributing this version in large scale sports events such as sports competitions (marathons, etc.).
Another important part of our business model is the collaboration with designers, engineers and scientists in an open basis, to research new materials and innovate further and also the partnership with research and testing institutions like the Virus Research Lab at the University of Barcelona.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We believe that a combination in fundraising will help us to continue developing the project further. Initially we received financial support from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and UKAid and this has helped us bring an idea to a final product.
We also believe in achiving financial sustainability by selling our products in different markets and with separate strategies. Where consumers have a higher income we will charge a higher price than for NGOs or low income consumers. Fortunately we have been able to manufacture a high quality at a low price thanks to our open innovation model so that the margins can cover the costs and even be able to give away many filters to NGOs.
Why are you applying to the Tiger Challenge?
We would like to apply for the Tiger Challenge as Bangladesh is one of the largest countries in the world with a high need for clean drinking water technology and innovative affordable approaches to solve this problem. Apart from any funding provided, we very much would like get support in meeting NGOs and government organizations to test and distribute our products. We would also like to get advice to develop market strategies that are suitable for the low and middle income household market and open potential distribution channels.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to meet organizations working in water and sanitation like the Bangladesh WASH Alliance and Unicef in the non profit sector, and social companies like BRAC which have a WASH programe. We would like to partner with government health agencies to promote the importance of drinking clean water. We would like to also partner with retail channels in the future to distribute the products across the country.
- Mauricio Cordova Founder, Faircap CIC