How harvesting rainwater is making the world a better place

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Michael Farnsworth, below, is CEO and Founder of Stormsaver.  Here, he tells us why he set the company up and the thinking behind it.

During my final project at Nottingham Trent University, I successfully designed and tested a water recycling system that could turn river water into drinking. It was during this time that my interest in sustainability developed. I could see water scarcity becoming a significant global threat and my vision was for every new property to be built with a water recycling system.

At the time there were only a handful of sustainable buildings that existed in the UK, but sustainable products were not readily available in the marketplace. I wanted to develop a water recycling solution that could be mass produced so that water recycling systems could be available, much like buying a heating system.

I decided to follow this pathway to create a business manufacturing water recycling systems. Initially working from a spare room for an office and the coal shed in the garden to build the systems. My business partner Lisa Farnsworth and I worked tirelessly to spread awareness of water conservation. Nearly 20 years later, Stormsaver is now a thriving business of 36 team members who are all trained experts in rainwater harvesting. With over 2000 water recycling systems across the country, we helped save over 6.8 billion litres of water. Our maintenance division helps to maintain 1500 rainwater harvesting systems, ensuring our customers can maximise water and carbon savings for the long term.

What were the challenges in the early days?

In the early days of Stormsaver the biggest challenge was a lack of awareness surrounding water scarcity in the UK. There was a misconception that the country had a large surplus of water supplies. Products such as rainwater harvesting and solar panels were just emerging in the market, so customers and construction companies did not commit budget to sustainable products. To overcome the problem, we used marketing to spread awareness of water conservation. We also helped to educate the construction industry on the issue of water usage and still work everyday to help spread the word to customers.

We also faced a lack of finance. We wanted to grow the business and started with small business loans and the help from the local county council along with a business investor. Every bit of profit we made was re-invested back into research & development, staffing and marketing. This formula allowed us to grow our team and expand the product range to offer systems for many building types.

For people who might not know, can you tell us more about ‘rainwater harvesting’

Many people think of rainwater harvesting as a traditional water butt connected to roof downpipes. However, things have moved on a bit since then! Essentially, rainwater harvesting is exactly what it says on the tin; the collection and storage of rainwater which can be filtered and reused for non-potable use, such as toilet flushing, irrigation and vehicle washing. The UK will require an extra 3.4 billion litres per day by 2050 according to the Environment Agency, so it is important we install rainwater harvesting systems now.

Our systems use technology to provide a sustainable water supply to both commercial and residential buildings. We have a range of products which are ideal for new builds or retrofit to existing buildings. Each rainwater harvesting system we sell is bespoke to the clients’ requirements, taking into account roof area, local rainfall data and predicted water usage.

You won four awards in the recent UK Business Awards – The UK’s Best Green Business 2022, a silver for Best Innovative Product, a silver for Team of the Year and a bronze for the UK Customer Choice Award. It’s an impressive haul. How did it make you feel and what do you think gave you the edge over other entries?

It’s safe to say we were overwhelmed with the awards we won! Coming from a business of two people working out of a garden, to being named the UK’s ‘Best Green Business’ is quite the journey. We couldn’t have done it without our wonderful team, our suppliers, and of course our customers. I would like to send a huge thank you to them.

I think what gave us the edge was our commitment to making our world a better place. It’s not just about the water and carbon savings of rainwater harvesting systems, it’s about providing sustainable jobs local people, supporting early careers through work experience, spreading awareness of water scarcity, and helping those in water poverty. The bigger picture really does matter.

We have also kept our offering fresh with continued research and development in our products and services. Recently, we launched the StormStation, which is an all-in-one rainwater harvesting unit. This makes the unit portable and ideal for retrofitting to existing buildings. The development work has been a success and the impact on our customers has been massive.

Where do you hope the company will be in five to ten years’ time?

My favourite question! We have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline which will be coming to fruition in the next five years. We just launched a two-year knowledge transfer project with Nottingham Trent University to develop a new smart rainwater harvesting system. In a UK first, the system will combine AI with rainwater harvesting to predict weather patterns and assist customers to save even more water. I can see the results of this project really taking off and making rainwater harvesting accessible to more people than ever before.

I can also see rapid growth within our team. We started 2021 with 21 employees and we now have 36. With growth plans in the pipeline, we will exceed staff of 60 within the next couple of years. We will also have a network of engineers commissioning and maintaining any type of water recycling system. More team members will mean quicker lead times, greater efficiency, more marketing activity, improved research & development, and more business development. Our vision is for all new building across the UK and overseas to have a Stormsaver rainwater harvesting system installed as standard. It’s exciting times ahead for Team Stormsaver!

Stormsaver

 

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024