Have you ever thought of having a beer made from air? Yes, you read that right. AB InBev, a Belgian multinational beverage and brewing company that has Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois among other brands in its portfolio, is conducting a pilot project with Uravu Labs.
The Bengaluru-based startup has built a solution that captures water from the air using renewable energy. The technology uses desiccants (a substance or chemical that absorbs or attracts moisture from the air) to extract moisture from the air, using renewable energy sources such as solar energy, waste heat or biomass.
Among the many notable pilot projects underway, there’s one pilot that Uravu Labs and its 25-person team are looking forward to – and that’s the one with AB InBev. With a business plan for one of the biggest brewing companies, the water tech startup is officially making a foray into the beverage industry.
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“Beverages are our priority sector. This sector is one of the biggest consumers of fresh water or groundwater reserves,” says Swapnil Shrivastav, co-founder of Uravu Labs. “Globally, the beverage industry consumes millions of liters of water every year and about 40% of this amount comes from groundwater. So deploying our solution in this sector will have a big impact.” According to the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) 2021 report, 17 major beverage companies used 730 billion liters of water in 2020.
Apart from a project with AB InBev, the Bengaluru-based startup is working on commercial projects with two real estate players and is also in talks with a few other companies. “We are exploring possibilities with various government bodies, primarily civic bodies, as well as non-governmental organizations. Our technology can support the central government’s Jal Jeevan mission, setting up decentralized units in hamlets where connections to running water are not possible.”
Launched in 2019, the Jal Jeevan mission aims to provide clean water to 3.8 million households in 2022-23. In the recent budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also earmarked Rs 60,000 crore for the scheme.
Uravu Labs: turns air into water
In the case of AB InBev, the company plans to use not only solar energy, but also energy generated from the waste – called brewers’ grains (BSG) – produced in breweries. This process will address two issues: the use of BSG and the supply of renewable energy to convert air into water. Initially, 5 liters of water per day will be extracted from the air, which will then be descaled.
Asked about the cost of water using this process, Shrivastav says: “The quality of the water is our priority, more than the cost. He thinks the price of water will eventually come down as the project expands. He further states that since groundwater is more or less free in the country, the cost of water (generated by this process) will be vastly higher. However, it is cost effective compared to “water from the air” produced using conventional energy. “The technology we offer is largely for institutions or individuals who are aware and aware that water is limited. Therefore, they must adapt in sustainable ways.”
Uravu Labs was founded in 2019. But the duo – Swapnil and Venkatesh – started developing the technology in 2017, while studying at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Calicut in Kerala. “There has been a significant change from what we initially developed. The technology then was energy intensive and dependent on conventional energy – not a sustainable system. But now it is powered by renewable energy, which makes it makes it sustainable,” says Shrivastav.
The company since its inception has managed to receive several grants that have helped it develop the technology over time.
When asked how the water tech startup got its name, Shrivastav said it was named after the Malayalam word for spring water. “It’s also a Tamil word that means relationship, which we learned much later.”
The startup – co-founded by Govinda Balaji, Pardeep Garg, Venkatesh R and Swapnil Shrivastav – recently raised pre-seed funding led by Speciale Invest. In this round, the company has also seen the participation of investors such as Peter Yolles (EchoRiver Capital, United States); Soren Schroder (USA), Shigeru Sumimoto (Conselux Corporation, Japan) and Tomoki Kaneko (Kaneko Cord, Japan).
Shrivastav claims: “We will consider the next round in the next three to four months.” The next fundraiser will be to scale up their pilot projects tailored to meet the needs of a particular industry or company.
He reveals that the company also plans to deploy the technology in Japan. “We have strategic investors from Japan on board and that will help us grow in Japan,” says Shrivastav.
(Edited by : Jomy Jos Pullokaran)
First post: STI