Sustainable manufacturing: turning wine into water

Fujitsu / March 11, 2022

Big problems require innovative solutions. And problems don’t come any bigger than the world’s water crisis. Up to 4 billion people experience water shortages at least one month each year. Yet, until 2012, equitable water distribution and sustainable consumption seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

Then one visionary organization, Botanical Water Technologies, dared to think differently. To develop patented technology to filter and purify water from vegetables, fruits and sugarcane that is normally discarded during the concentration process.

But while Botanical Water had the revolutionary technology, they knew they needed to scale the idea if it were to help solve the water crisis. In today’s complex and fast-changing business environment, no one company can change the world. So Botanical Water Technologies looked to form a collaborative partnership with other innovators to build something unprecedented: a global water exchange. And Fujitsu proved the ideal sustainable business transformation partner to help make this vision, real.

Innovating with intent

More than 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries, without reliable access to safe water for both human consumption and agricultural production.

Whether we do or don’t live in a region affected by water shortages, Fujitsu believes we are all stakeholders in protecting the global ecosystem. So, we’re committed to helping our customers develop sustainable solutions that address climate-related issues, not only delivering sustainable profits but contributing to a more sustainable environment and society.

And our work with companies like Botanical Water is proving that by innovating sustainably with intent, organizations can create radical new ideas that solve critical problems and deliver them on a global scale.

Turning wine into water

While most might see the value of turning water into wine, Botanical Water thought the unthinkable. What if you could filter and purify waste liquid from food and beverage production to create safe, clean drinking water? In effect, turning wine into water.

Thinking big picture, millions of liters of excess water are generated during the evaporation process used to create products like sugar, tomato paste and concentrated fruit juice. That water needs to be disposed of, often at great expense and to the detriment of the environment.

The Botanical Water team estimated that sustainably minded companies such as fruit and vegetable concentrate facilities, sugar mills and alcohol distilleries could generate up to three trillion liters of drinking water annually from production waste by installing purification technologies in processing plants.

By innovating sustainably with intent, Botanical Water had solved both the waste management and clean water shortage issues - and putting circular economy principles into practice.

Game-changing idea becomes world-changing innovation

While the technology behind Botanical Water was developed by a chemical engineer, it was the partnership with Terry Paule that turned plant-based water into a globally scalable operation.

Co-Founder and Chairman of Findex, one of Australasia’s leading providers of integrated financial advisory and accounting services, Paule helps companies with huge potential establish the strong operational framework needed to commercialize and corporatize their concept.

He patented the innovative purification technology and developed the manufacturing processes needed to ensure previously unusable water could be safely purified, sold and distributed. Botanical Water was born, and a game-changing idea became a world-changing reality.

“When we were first standing in front of a whiteboard, people couldn’t believe that we could make water this way,” shares Paule. “This technology was too good to hoard. In fact, we wanted to do quite the opposite. Our goal was to share this new water source around the world.”

But to take this circular management model global, the company needed something else: a digital infrastructure for trading water. And this is where Fujitsu joined the sustainable manufacturing partnership.

Technology for real-world solutions

It would have been easy to rush into technology implementation with Botanical Water, but that’s not the way Fujitsu works.

“We are not pure technology players,” explains Frederik De Breuck, Chief Digital Officer/CTO at Fujitsu Belgium and Head of the Enterprise Blockchain Solution Center at Fujitsu Global. “We understand that innovation is 80% solving a business problem and 20% delivering the technology to do it, and we’ve created an ecosystem to deliver this.”

The Fujitsu philosophy resonated with Botanical Water. “The reason we selected Fujitsu as a partner was because we loved that they weren’t just giving us tech for tech’s sake,” Paule praises. “It was tech for real-world solutions.”

Fujitsu believes the only way to drive truly sustainable business transformation is to establish an equal and trusted partnership with our customers.

So we worked with the Botanical Water team to understand their technology, their goals and their challenges.

We saw at once the massive potential of Botanical Water.

It could provide organizatons such as juice concentration facilities, sugar mills and alcohol distilleries with an opportunity to reduce their waste and introduce closed loop manufacturing processes. While food and beverage manufacturers and bottlers could use Botanical Water as a sustainable water source to reach their environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets.

It could tick all the commercial boxes for a start-up with growth potential, while also enabling companies to leave the world a better place through their business practices.

And there were multiple use cases for the water itself. It could be repurposed for industrial and ingredient use – think beverage companies using Botanical Water to avoid the withdrawal of ground and acquifer water from scarce regions. It could even be bottled and sold to consumers as a retail product – saving resources in a world where 14.35 billion gallons of bottled water are sold each year.

Additionally, it could serve a philanthropic purpose by enabling corporate organizations to gift safe and sustainable water to communities facing chronic shortages or limited/no access to safe water. Reinjecting or replenishing water scarce regions allows companies to offset their internal water use and aim to have a net positive water impact on their ecosystem.

But Botanical Water needed a means of securely trading reusable water. So, with a deep and immersive knowledge of the company, we then embarked on a human-centered co-creation program, together, with one goal: to deliver a sustainable water trading solution that works in the real environment from day one - and can evolve over the longer term.

The outcome: Botanical Water Exchange (BWX), a unique blockchain-based water trading platform.

“We thought about what we could use to make water trading frictionless and realized that the most disruptive technologies in recent years have been platforms like Airbnb and Uber, which connect supply and demand,” says Terry Paule. “With Fujitsu, we created a platform that could manage local manufacturing, quality certifications, produce reliable and dependable schedules, and participants could transact in a digital contract.”

Building confidence in water exchange

The Botanical Water Exchange had a clear business case behind it. And it also addressed a major practical challenge associated with making the botanical water model a viable alternative to current water sources.

Installing a production unit would allow companies to purify wastewater from fruit and vegetables, but no business has the capacity to store infinite volumes of clean water. Without forming networks with other business and communities, eventually that water would go to waste again.

But selling purified water wasn’t a straightforward solution, either. Offset water is designed to be sustainable; shipping it halfway across the world would negate its environmental benefits. The BWX needed to enable net zero water trading, which meant matching sellers with local buyers, and using dynamic pricing to maximize accessibility based on available water supplies.

To create the data visibility needed to for local buyers and sellers to understand each other’s needs, we built the exchange using FUJITSU Track and Trust distributed ledger technology. The immutability of this approach ensures that everyone using the BWX is looking at the same, real-time information, and can track contractual transactions from end-to-end, building confidence in the new world of water exchange.

Adhering to industry standards

In addition to transparency, co-developing the Botanical Water Exchange on the blockchain has increased customer trust in the circular water economy.

Every piece of data relating to water production, movement and purchasing is securely and centrally documented. When companies invest in Botanical Water technology, their production unit is added to the blockchain as a digital asset, and IoT sensors validate information from each unit and replicate it on the blockchain. This allows us to introduce quality control mechanisms and store certifications that show everything has been completed to industry standards.

Critically, while water manufacturing processes, availability and exchange transactions are processed through the blockchain, payment and logistics are managed separately through platform integration. This decision has been driven by a business first, technology second approach; international food and beverage companies don’t fully trust cryptocurrencies yet, so feel more confident managing financial transactions and water deliveries using existing corporate systems.

Smart water

The Botanical Water Exchange also supports the production of smart water – quite literally. By using data generated by asset integration on the blockchain, Botanical Water and its customers can come to better decisions, for their own business and the wider community.

“The decisions being made by business stakeholders are 60-70% more complex now than they were five years ago, because of the changes we’ve seen in the market,” Frederik notes. “Blockchain allow us to take the data being generated by technology and establish a better business model based on its insights.”

In the case of Botanical Water, this insight works on two levels. Modelling future water generation and usage based on previous customer production and consumption, to increase reliability and trust in water sources. And generating data that is utilized by project developers to continue co-innovating quality applications that grow the sustainable water movement.

The power of partnership and collaborative innovation

When asked what inspired the breakthrough thinking behind the BWX, Frederik just smiles and points to a Simon Sinek quote, “Safe is good for sidewalks and swimming pools, but life requires risk if we are to get anywhere.”

Botanical Water is an incredible example of how desire for improvement and attaching new technologies to existing industries can deliver world-changing results.

Together, Fujitsu and Botanical Water have built a modern water trading exchange that supports sustainable manufacturing and distribution, while providing certainty that so many regions can’t take for granted.

And the Botanical Water story is also a salient lesson in the power of partnership and collaborative innovation. Many of us stick to what we know because we’re afraid of failure. But intentional innovation centers on the input (intent) rather than the output, combining the skills and resources of people who want a safer, more secure future for global communities. Together, we can achieve something far greater than we could do alone.

“If we want to leave the world better, we have to put in the effort,” Frederik concludes. “Supported by today’s digital technology, sustainable manufacturers have the opportunity to imagine solutions that others might call crazy. Then, together, we can put our feet on the ground and make it happen. After all, manufacturers can no longer get away with telling people what we’re going to do; we need to work together to make it happen.”

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Frederik De Breuck
Chief Digital Officer / CTO Fujitsu Belgium, Head of the Enterprise Blockchain Solution Center at Fujitsu Global
As CDO and CTO of Fujitsu Belgium, Frederik De Breuck overall responsibility is to drive growth and strategic renewal by transforming traditional businesses into digital ones. Frederik also manages the Enterprise Blockchain and Data Trust Solution Center for Fujitsu Global, focusing on building production-ready Blockchain and Distributed Ledger solutions and creating innovative methodologies to increase enterprise adoption.

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