SA Affordable Housing November / December 2017 // Issue: 67 - Page 27

FEATURES Yolandi Schoeman with her aWetbox on a water tank. businesses. The system can be scaled from 1 000ℓ to 50 000ℓ or more, which makes it suitable for a range of applications, from individual families to communities to property developments. A lot of research went into the concept to ensure its efficiency, says Schoeman. “I did a considerable amount of work on floating islands and conducted tests to ascertain which of the plants could remove the maximum amount of contaminants from the water. The research on the floating islands significantly contributed to refine the concept of aWetbox.” aWetbox is a nature-based solution that mimics the workings of a natural wetland – but in a box, or a tank. Grey water is run through it, where it goes through a natural biological filter (consisting of a sand and gravel filter that also adjusts the pH) as a first phase in cleaning up the water, removing solids in suspension and other contaminants and solids. In addition, the acidity of the water is adjusted, beneficial bacteria are also grown during the first phase to remove more contaminants (metals and non-metals). During the next phase, the water is exposed to thousands of microscopic and other roots of ‘intelligent’ plants that remove the remaining contaminants. The plants are referred to as ‘intelligent’ as they have phytoremedial properties. Phytoremediation is the name given to a set of processes that use different plants as a containment, destruction or extraction technique. Tests have shown that this is more cost-effective than conventional treatment methods. aWetbox is a patented and cost-effective solution that is available in an easy-to-assemble kit-form. The payback time once installed is under 12 months. It eliminates 99% of disease-causing microorganisms and improves the water quality for household use by up to 80%. Schoeman says her innovation can bring about a saving of between 40% and 80% on a domestic water bill. “A lot of the water that is recycled can be used for washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, to bathe and, of course, to water the garden. If you integrate this with a rainwater-harvesting system, you can save even more, because you will have more water available for recycling.” In the case of a house, aWetbox will be installed outside. You will have a tank for all your grey water (you can also link it to your rainwater-harvesting system) from where it will be fed to the aWetbox, where it will be treated. From there it will go to a tank that is linked to the plumbing system of your house, which will enable you to re-use the water. “We are in the process of getting aWetbox ready for market and should be able to offer it to clients by the second quarter of 2017. aWetbox for a family of four is expected to cost between R8 000 and R10 000,” says Schoeman. Schoeman says the GCIP-SA made a world of difference to her business. As the 2016 winner, she received a cash prize and an all-expenses paid trip to Silicon Valley in the US to compete against top performers of other GCIP programmes from across the world. In addition, she won a cash prize for the most promising woman-led team. “The programme includes everything an entrepreneur needs to de-risk and scale up a business. It helped us to think and rethink our innovation and go-to-market strategy, unravelling the fine print of getting our business on the road to success and ultimately putting us on the map. “Participating in the GCIP-SA programme is not easy, it will stretch your capabilities as an entrepreneur and you will grow in ways that you did not even think were possible. I do recommend this programme to all green- and cleantech entrepreneurs, as it will provide you with a significant advantage when you are ready to enter the market,” she says. Schoeman is currently a DTech candidate in Environmental Engineering (Civil Engineering) at the Tshwane University of Technology, specialising in Industrial Ecology (completion date 2017). She is also in the process of completing her masters in Integrated Water Resource Management through Monash South Africa, focusing on the diffusion of eco-technology/green infrastructure. ABOUT THE GCIP-SA The Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa (GCIP-SA) is part of a global initiative that aims to promote clean technology innovation aimed at addressing critical energy, environmental and economic challenges facing the planet. It combines an annual competition and a business accelerator programme where SMEs and start-ups are trained and mentored aimed to the development of more marketable and investor-attractive products and businesses. The programme is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) with funding by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). In South Africa UNIDO is partnering with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) as the execution and hosting institution for the GCIP, while the US-based Cleantech Open serves as the main knowledge partner of the global programme. aWETBOX IN A NUTSHELL aWetbox is wetland in a box that treats water for reuse using a unique biological filter. It is a low-tech, low- maintenance and low-cost solution that can be integrated into rainwater and grey-water recycling systems. aWetbox can be installed in rural communities facing water security challenges, with or without the collaboration of the local government, as i B66W02F֗BזW'6Vb6vRB267VF&Rf &W6FVFƖFB6'&FRFWfVVG2dd$D$P4U4pdT$U"DT4T$U"#p#