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Wetec: Walter Penfold

Irrigation company takes first mover advantage with rainwater harvesting systems that look set to change the way the market thinks about water consumption.

Juliet Pitman

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Walter Penfold

Those in the know predict that water shortages will be responsible for South Africa’s next big infrastructure crisis. If they’re right then Walter Penfold will be sitting in the pound seat. And even if predictions are overstated, there can be little doubt that a business which delivers smarter ways to harness and save water is on a winning wicket. Penfold started Wetec with a partner in 2003. Originally an irrigation business, the company this year launched a new imported product range that allows for the collection, storage and distribution of rainwater. “It’s called rainwater harvesting and it really is the way of the future,” says Penfold, explaining how the system captures rainwater for it to be stored and then redistributed into the plumbing of a home or the systems of a large industrial business.

Seeing the gap

“Think about it,” he says, “Rainwater is fresh and pure, but is allowed to run off into storm water drains, rivers and eventually into dams from whence it needs to be cleaned and purified at great expense into pure safe drinking water. Urban consumers use less than 5% of it for drinking and food preparation; the other 95% of this drinking water is used to flush toilets, wash clothes and irrigate gardens, which is absolutely crazy. Rain harvesting collects the water after it has rained, when it needs little purification and filtering, and stores it so it can be used for non-drinking and food preparation purposes.” Penfold’s years of running Wetec as a specialist irrigation company helped him identify the rain harvesting gap early on. “Our business focus has always been on urban water conservation and our irrigation systems were designed for optimal water efficiency,” he says. These computer-operated, fully automated, intelligent irrigation systems calculate how much water a garden loses each day through evaporation and plant use, and therefore how much water needs to be replaced. By measuring the microclimate of a garden and adjusting to the weather, they can save the user between 20% and 50% of irrigated water consumption.

Securing sole agency

“With that background, it made sense for us to start looking at water efficiency for the whole home. This led us to rain harvesting, which is applicable as much to large industrial businesses as it is to individual consumer use,” says Penfold. His experience in irrigation laid critical foundations and developed his know-ledge about importing best-of-breed products and where the biggest water saving needs lie. The company has secured the sole rights to import and distribute the Rain Harvesting product range from Australia, where rain harvesting is at its most advanced and sophisticated. “Australia is the driest continent on earth, and over three million Australians rely on rainwater as their sole water supply. They are the leaders in rain harvesting and it’s there that we naturally turned when looking for rainwater harvesting products,” he explains, adding that the company hopes to secure the sole rights for distribution into Africa as well.

Tapping the market

The potential market is large, diverse and untapped; for private urban use Wetec offers everything from a simple DIY tank to sophisticated underground storage tanks complete with pumps and filters, while the commercial and industrial systems can cater for enormous operations. “Water tariffs will undoubtedly rise which means everyone, from the individual consumer to large industrial corporations, will stand to save money from rainwater harvesting,”  Penfold adds. For consumers there’s the added benefit that a sophisticated home system can be installed and linked to the plumbing without much interference in the existing structure of the home. “It doesn’t require bashing down walls or anything of the kind, and the system is designed to automatically switch to municipal water if the rainwater tanks run dry,” he explains. The water is filtered for sediment, colour and odour using a patented filter system.
While the simple DIY kit and rain barrel will be retailed through hardware stores, Wetec distributes the rest of the product range through contractors. “Human beings have been doing a low-tech form of rainwater harvesting for 4 000 years, but it’s mostly a forgotten practice. But now, the water crisis, particularly in water-scarce countries like South Africa, has created the need for solutions that save water and use alternative water sources. It’s a fledgling market in South Africa but it’s one we aim to dominate,” Penfold concludes.

Company: Wetec
Player: Walter Penfold
Est. 2003
Contact: +27 11 708 7950
www.wetec.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

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Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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