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  • Raoul Kuiper

Financing for drinking water startup SolarDew

SolarDew makes clean drinking water from salt and polluted water

Clean drinking water is a given in many Western countries, but in many places in the world, especially in remote areas, this is often not the case. SolarDew is able to produce clean and safe drinking water from seawater, brackish water, but also from water contaminated with, for example, arsenic or fluorine. For this, SolarDew uses a very simple technology that only uses solar heat and gravity. SolarDew, in collaboration with Generous Minds, has found the right impact financiers for their next phase of growth, namely Oost NL, VOx Impuls and the Netherlands Enabling Watertechnology Fund. With the investment of more than 1 million euros in total, the startup can take the final steps in the development of their innovative water purification technology, prior to market launch, with the aim of providing more than 1 million people with clean drinking water by 2030.

Alexander van der Kleij (right), co-founder of SolarDew and inventor of the filter system. Behind him Peter-Jan Oene of the Vallei & Veluwe water board - Photo by Maarten Sprangh

Two billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and water scarcity will make this situation even more complex in the coming years. The United Nations expects that by 2030, about half of the world's population will be affected by water scarcity. The growing world population and climate change are important factors for the increasing water scarcity.

Water from evaporation and condensation

SolarDew has a solution that focuses on households and communities, especially in remote areas where there is little or no infrastructure. To this end, the company uses an innovative membrane distillation technology that optimizes the natural processes of evaporation and condensation using a unique membrane.

SolarDew's product looks like a kind of solar panel, but instead of converting solar radiation into electricity, the panel directly uses the heat to produce drinking water. “For example, seawater is pumped into the system, and the heat from the sun causes the water to evaporate. The water vapor passes through a membrane through which salts, heavy metals, but also viruses and bacteria cannot pass. The clean water is collected and the concentrated dirty water is discharged” explains Alexander van der Kleij, CEO and one of the founders of SolarDew. An additional advantage of SolarDew's solution is that it is a modular system that is easily scalable and is therefore suitable for both households and communities.

Investment accelerates development

With the investment of more than 1 million euros, SolarDew can take the final steps to further develop their product and prepare it for production. Important steps are validating the product in the field. “With this investment, we can build a first WaterStation this year in collaboration with Ballast Nedam, for use in one of their infrastructure projects in Africa. In addition, the investment entitles us to an additional investment from the European Innovation Council”, says Van der Kleij.

On behalf of SolarDew, the financing was supervised by Generous Minds, a cooperative of impact-driven experts that supports social enterprises with both expertise and access to impact-driven capital. Ronald Beuk founder of Generous Minds: “SolarDew is a super innovative and scalable solution for a major global problem. It is a potential impact unicorn, which we support with heart and soul in further developing their impact and business.

Erik Beekmans, Director Export & Project Finance, Ballast Nedam International Projects: “We are very excited to be SolarDew's launching customer. Apart from the CSR aspect of supporting SolarDew, this first project really serves as a test case for Ballast Nedam to deploy this technology on a larger scale. We look forward to the implementation phase with confidence.

SolarDew's technology allows people to produce their own drinking water, even if the nearest water source is seawater or contains a high content of minerals, metals or salts. In addition, SolarDew offers an affordable solution that is also scalable, which increases the chance of market acceptance." says Joka Bosch, investment manager Energy at Oost NL. Oost NL invests from ION+2, a fund for innovative entrepreneurs in the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel. The resources of the ION+2 fund come from the European REACT-EU programme.

Allard van der Horst, Investment Manager for the Netherlands Enabling Water Technology Fund, managed by the NOM (Northern Development Agency): “SolarDew has developed an innovative solution for producing clean drinking water on location. They are in the final Proof of Concept phase, with the intention that a pilot set-up will be built in the second half of this year, after which validation must take place in collaboration with launching customer Ballast Nedam. We have confidence in product development and in the SolarDew team. In terms of type of company and the phase they are in, SolarDew fits perfectly with the objectives that the NEW fund pursues: providing financing to innovative start-ups in the water technology sector.

Maarten van Middelkoop, portfolio manager of VOx Impuls: “SolarDew offers a promising alternative to reliable but relatively expensive reverse osmosis technology that is beyond the reach of millions of people in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. An investment in the validation of this technology in a non-Western context fits well with our focus on sustainable solutions within the domain of SDG 6 (access to clean drinking water and sanitation).

Next phase of growth for SolarDew

In order to provide 1 million people with clean drinking water by 2030, it is important that SolarDew as an organization also grows to the next phase. That is why Generous Minds will support SolarDew in the coming period in optimizing their commercial foundation, including setting up a CRM system that makes the team scalable and can support with automation to reduce their current workload. In addition, we ensure that the team moves from a product-oriented organization to a consumer-oriented organization. Finally, Generous Minds supports SolarDew in finding the right impact financing for the next phase.

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