Water Tank Technology Aims to Solve Supply Problems
When Libby and Toby Evans moved to Mangawhai in 2016, they expected the minor inconvenience of managing their own water supply.
They never expected to create a startup that gives people living on tank water the confidence of never running out.
The husband and wife team are cofounders of Tankful – one of eight Northland startup businesses in The Pick:18’s Investment Ready competition, selected for showcasing to angel investors this month.
When moving to Mangawhai they became frustrated with relying on tank water, often struggled to work out how much water was in their tank and how long it would last. “We searched for a smart, affordable product – but found nothing suitable,” Toby says, “So we decided to build our own.”
It is estimated 185,000 dwellings nationwide are on tank water (around 10 percent of dwellings in NZ). Australia has 2.3 million, around 26 percent of dwellings on tank water. All are potential customers.
Tankful is a cloud-connected water level monitoring system, the first of its kind to focus solely on the residential market with intelligent predictions based on multiple data points.
It’s about minimising the negative impact of water shortages for people who live on tank water. In January 2017 the local water cartage firms around Hibiscus Coast and Mangawhai were temporarily locked out from being able to top up at filling stations. The spin-off meant carriers had longer drives resulting in less people getting their water delivered, pushing wait times to several weeks. Families waiting for water were forced to purchase drinking water, showering at friends and using Laundromats. Bach owners also reported turning down or cancelling bookings, impacting their rental income.
Libby and Toby are receiving plenty of local interest in their beta release – Mangawhai is one of the many ‘urban pockets’ which don’t have a town water supply. Others include Waiheke, Beachlands and parts of Hibiscus Coast. Supporters including specialists in electrical engineering have worked alongside Toby to put together the prototype.
As well as the existing potential customers, population growth and climate change will increase the demand for houses having their own water supply by means of rainwater collection.
“We are experiencing longer dry seasons,” Libby says. “NIWA reports climate changes are expected to increase the drought frequency and intensity for New Zealand. There is a lot of talk of the agriculture impacts of this but limited awareness within residential communities, particularly those on tank water. When you run out, so do others in your neighbourhood – that puts pressure on bulk water delivery companies. We’ve seen people time and time again getting caught out.”
Existing water level monitoring solutions are either dated gauges or sensors focused on agricultural needs, Libby says – hence the start-up of Tankful.
Tankful won a Supreme Award at The Pick:2017 – Northland Inc’s Business Ideas Awards and was a finalist in the Innovation category at the Northland Business Excellence Awards last month.
For more information, or to register your interest in the beta release, visit Tankful.nz