SkyJuice Foundation was incorporated in Sydney in 2005 as a not for profit, charitable organisation. It is a not-for-profit organisation that assists consults and provides potable water solutions to developing communities and countries with the view to provide immediate access to safe water. SkyJuice uses the world’s best low-pressure membrane technology to produce safe, sustainable water filtration systems that are affordable and purpose appropriate.
Rhett Butler, AM is the founder and CEO of the SkyJuice Foundation. He is a mechanical engineer and a recognised innovator in cost low water solutions. We had a Q & A catch-up session with Rhett to talk about the story and progress of the SkyJuice Foundation.
Q. SkyJuice has now been operating for nearly 20 years, isn’t that right?
Yes, that is pretty well correct. The organisation has been incorporated for over 15 years and operated informally for many years prior to that period. Many of our founding members and volunteers have been with us on this amazing journey. They are the essence of our longevity and their passion for simple, sustainable and elegant passive membrane solutions is still there. Not surprisingly, many of our original partners are still using our safe water solutions.
Q. What was the spark and inspiration behind the SkyJuice technology?
It was very clear from day one in the mid-’90s that ultrafiltration had arrived on the world stage as the best available technology for effective filtration. There was a definite paradigm shift that was driven by a dynamic Australian company named MEMCOR. They were true pioneers and membrane technology leaders. Cost, affordability and performance were evident in the industrial and municipal markets, however, no-one had developed an effective “passive” gravity design. It was time to step up.
Whether you call it social entrepreneurship or whatever, this technology needed to be in hands on the world’s most needy and deserving people and that needed to happen sooner rather than later. The new generation of hydrophilic polymeric membranes led to the opportunity to “morph off“ a design that could be a simple, potable solution for the developing world. Our vision has not changed from that day; “safe water for every child”. The rest is history, as they say.
Q. Has the technology and design changed much over the years and if so, how?
In fact, it is very much as originally designed. Ultrafiltration membranes have steadily improved with time. We are very fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with the world’s preeminent membrane manufacturer, MEMCOR. Together we have accomplished some significant milestones.
SkyJuice has developed different modules, capacities and configurations based on feedback from our partners and users. The over-arching design principle remains unchanged. We take our guidance from nature to solve elegant and complex issues. Nature has a membrane embedded in all solutions and organisms. To use gravity and simple physical design principles instead of chemicals, automation and embedded energy is paramount.
All MSG’s solutions must embrace biomimicry and sustainable practices. Passive membrane filtration is a showcase example for others to embrace. We are proud of our contribution to date. Hopefully, it is inspiring others too!
Q. How is the SkyJuice Non-Government Organisation (NGO) model different from other NGO’s?
Anna, I often revisit our operating model and ask “can we do it better”. We have certainly workshopped it many times. As many will know, we do not directly rely on donations and our income is derived by “selling” our proprietary patented units to our clients, such as Watersan NGO’s and likeminded organisations and individuals. We run on a break-even-model with no remuneration or salaries, etc. We do not devote resources to active fundraising but rather direct our activities to supporting and assisting our partners, as best as possible, in over 74 countries.
SkyHydrants are made exclusively by the organisation here in Australia. Currently, we sub-contract manufacture the units and have stepped back from direct manufacturing. And of course, as always, we are open to suggestions on how best we can tailor solutions and outcomes.
The second part of our Q+A with Rhett Butler will come out next month. In the meanwhile, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to make sure you receive our newsletter straight in your inbox for all the SkyJuice and partner news.