Pulling water from air

Express News Service

Bengaluru-based Uravu Labs uses technology that literally converts air into water. According to the founders—Swapnil Shrivastav, Venkatesh R, Pardeep Garg and Govinda Balaji—, it is only one of the two companies of 200 existing ones in the world where the water thus produced is 100 per cent renewable. The other company is Source Global from the US. Founded in 2019, Uravu Labs raised $2.3 million in a seed round from JITO Angel Network, Anicut Capital and Speciale Invest this March. Its invention, after all, is the need of the hour. With over 1.4 billion population, India has only 4 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources. As the summers approach, water scarcity in most metros is an annual reality. Unsurprisingly, climate tech is the way forward. 

The process was started in 2015, when Swapnil and Venkatesh were studying B.Arch at NIT, Calicut, which faced chronic water scarcity. Driven by their passion for sustainable technology and social impact, the two classmates conceived the idea of developing a solution to address the issue. “Recognising the need for additional technical and business expertise, I reached out to a professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, who introduced us to his former student, Pardeep,” says 30-year-old Swapnil. The team later onboarded Govinda, who they met through mutual friends.

“We use liquid desiccant systems with substances like calcium chloride and lithium chloride solutions, which have the ability to absorb moisture from the air. After it draws in the moisture, the desiccant is pumped to a separate desorber unit where the solution is heated. This creates air so humid it’s almost like steam, which then passes to a low-power, air-cooled condenser that turns it into water,” says 36-year-old Pardeep. The device uses thermal energy to power it.

The water is potable after adding the required minerals, as air naturally doesn’t contain any and the water produced is almost distilled in quality. The journey of setting up Uravu Labs began in 2018, when they were among the top five global finalists for the Water Abundance X Prize and won a $50,000 prize. “In the early days of our hardware technology company in the climate-tech space, obtaining financial capital posed significant challenges,” says 29-year-old Venkatesh. 

Today Uravu Labs is focused on the hospitality and beverage industries since they are the major consumers of groundwater. “Hotels, restaurants and cafes are also on the radar,” says 32-year-old Govinda. The company sells packaged renewable water bottles to the hospitality sector at a cost ranging from `4 to Rs 8 per litre. It has achieved a daily capacity of producing 1,000 liters of water per day and is looking to scale up further. 

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