Rick VanSant, president of UV Pure Technologies, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. VanSant discussed UV Pure’s capabilities, emerging technologies in the industry, and global trends in wastewater and water reuse. Listen or read on to learn more.
Todd Schnick: And we are back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and the tradeshow floor of WEFTEC. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my co-host Todd Youngblood. Todd, we’re about to get a break, finally. We’ve been going all day long. It’s been outstanding.
Todd Youngblood: Break? What is that?
Schnick: I don’t know, but that’s what it says on the calendar.
Youngblood: Oh, okay. I thought that was Bill Break. I knew a fella named that from college.
Schnick: Well, this is our closer, coming to the end of hour five of Water Online Radio. We are joined by the president of UV Pure Technologies. Welcome to Water Online Radio, Rick VanSant.
Rick: Thanks, guys.
Schnick: It’s great to have you. Thanks for joining us. Before we get into a conversation, take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and the work that UV Pure Technologies is doing.
Rick: Sure, well, UV Pure Technologies makes UV water disinfection technology. It’s in its eighth commercial year. I’d still characterize it as an emerging stage company. Its technology is differentiated; probably the most advanced UV technology.
At this stage, it probably has about 10,000 installations: around 9,000 in North America and 1,000 offshore. We help treat water in small applications. For us, that’s under a million gallons a day – probably half wastewater applications and half potable applications.
Schnick: Clarify something for me, what one million gallons means. Give me an example. When I think of water purification, I’m thinking of a municipality purifying drinking water. Give me some examples of what you’re actually talking about.
Rick: Well, a million gallons today probably does 90% of the wastewater/potable water treatment points globally. When we use water in North America, we use a lot of water, so it treats a relatively small population base from a municipal perspective; but in the developing world, that’s an awful lot of water – much bigger population bases.
Youngblood: Rick, you said you’re an eight-year-old company and yet still emerging. I mean, that sounds like after eight years, you’d be a little bit established.
Rick: Well, we are established. I probably mischaracterized it a bit on the safe side. We’re an OEM vendor to some of the largest global corporations: GE, Siemens, ITT. Some of the package plant manufacturers like Orenco Systems that you’d see here.
One thing I learned with my investor hat on is that this is not a space that embraces new or differentiated technologies quickly. They’re more associated with risk. So it takes a long time to move from great idea, to proof of performance, to acceptance in the marketplace. And UV Pure Technologies, I’d say, today is well respected, but still at a relatively early stage.
Schnick: Why is this space slow to adopt change? Explain why that occurs.
Rick: I think it’s for good reason. One is, we’re in the safe water business, and you don’t want to make a mistake. Usually the barriers are engineering related or regulatory related. So they’re slow to embrace new. New is associated with risky. Once it’s proven, then you move on.
Youngblood: Yeah, Rick, back to the idea of small applications. Can I assume from that you really are focused on emerging economies?
Rick: No, you can’t. Did I interrupt you there?
Youngblood: No, no, no. I’m just curious as to…is there any particular part of the world or region that you’re focusing on more?
Rick: First of all, wastewater – and reused water, particularly – are much more quickly growing as a market segment than potable water applications. In those two segments, small applications – I’ll give you some examples: point of use or point of entry treatment, buildings, runoff treatment, rainwater catchment treatment – is the fastest growing segment of the market.
There are some huge global trends. One would be a move away from chemical treatment to nonchemical treatment. Another is from central to remote applications. And an even bigger one is a move away from the great big, complex, very expensive, central plants with miles and miles and miles of infrastructure piping to decentralized applications. They’re smaller, they’re simpler, they cost less money, and they’re closer to the problem, therefore more impactful.
Schnick: Walk us through what you see as some of the emerging trends and issues in water/ wastewater going into 2012.
Rick: Well, I just mentioned some of the biggest. A big driver is: we’ve dumped chlorine in our water systems, both for potable and wastewater treatment for generations. We know that, generally, it’s not something that’s considered healthy, and it’s not effective against certain pathogens; cysts would be the one that would certainly come to mind.
So, there’s a clear shift away from just dumping chemical in our environment through the water table and using nonchemical barriers to microbiology or treatment for chemistry in the water. A second, major shift is the shift to simpler, more decentralized treatment and those that can be remotely managed and monitored. It’s really moving from a 19th Century-based technology to a 21st Century-based technology.
Schnick: Jumping ahead across so many different technologies as well as different political entities, is regulation something that’s a blessing or a curse? Or is it a little bit of both?
Rick: Well, let me think – it’s both, for sure, and maybe it’s even a third thing which is really necessary. It’s a big driver, commercially, in our business. And, if I can put my UV Pure Technologies hat on for a second, one of the things that we like about our space, is that we are not in the highly politicized, very large, regulated application space.
We’re in the smaller, up to a million gallons a day, as I mentioned, sort of space that’s faster to market; more responsive to regulation, but not part of that politicized process.
Schnick: Help the Water Online audience better understand your target market. Geographically, are you international? And then give us a couple definitions of what an ideal customer would look like.
Rick: Sure, we’re still focused largely in North America. I mentioned we have 10,000 installations: 9,000 of those are in Canada and the U.S. and 1,000 are in Australia and New Zealand. We have early distribution on the ground in China and Brazil, and now, recently, have begun in Mexico. The developing world is growing much more quickly. There isn’t the established infrastructure that really stands in the way of emerging technologies.
For us, an application would range from – feather in our technical cap – Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, which chose our technology to purify the water that comes onboard the airplane – big emerging issue, to the most common route to wastewater and reuse treatment would be working with package plant manufacturers that are putting a number of different technologies together – perhaps in a big trailer and shipping those all over the globe for mining camps, or oil and gas fields, or other remote applications, emergency services.
And the last, more common, approach is specifying engineering firms that are dealing with stormwater runoff; they’re dealing with smaller applications, rainwater reuse for irrigation, agricultural purposes.
Schnick: Rick, a lot of companies, both large and small, have decided that tradeshows are no longer such a good use of cash. Why are you here? What kind of things do you expect to learn? What kind of messages are you trying to deliver to the folks that are attending?
Rick: I guess the bigger answer to that question is its mass. There are a lot of potential customers here on the floor, not just walking into the tradeshow. Also, competitors – so we get a first-hand look at what’s being showcased at the show.
But I have to say, I, like everybody else, wonders from time to time what the actual payoff is. But I think there are two things: one is, so far, for this company it’s proven to be beneficial; and two is, we’re afraid not to be here.
Schnick: The profound reaction that I have to WEFTEC is that its less about generating sales, which, of course, is a principal goal for attending a tradeshow, but it really is about education and educating people and learning about emerging technologies.
Rick: Well, I think that’s true of the conference program, absolutely, and probably true to some degree about the tradeshow floor.
Youngblood: Rick, how important is collaboration with other companies and entities in the industry?
Rick: Absolutely critical, in my view. If you step back and you say, “Whats the biggest strategy that’s generally put forward by planners in this world?”—it’s the accretion of different product technologies to end-to-end solutions.
So companies are moving to sell solutions and not simply products. As a technology company today, obviously, we get an opportunity to talk to a lot of those agglomerators, if you will, who will have different technologies and are putting solutions into the market.
Schnick: Rick, I hate to say it, but we’re out of time. Before we let you go, share with the audience how they can contact your organization and learn more about the work that you’re doing.
Rick: Well, the best is through the Website, which is uvpure.com, UV Pure Technologies.
Schnick: Rick VanSant with UV Pure Technologies, it was great to have you; a pleasure. And thanks for joining us.
Rick: Thank you very much, fellas.
Youngblood: Thanks a lot, Rick.
Schnick: Okay, that wraps this segment. Water Online Radio will be back in just a moment. I’m Todd Schnick, joined by Todd Youngblood. We’ll see you shortly.