Antarctica is the highest, coldest, windiest, driest continent on earth. The harshly beautiful landscape – covered with ice in the winter, becomes a Martian desert in the summer with ice caps on the horizon.
Penguins in the Antarctica don’t worry about drinking water, but it is a necessity for the scientists studying the ebb of glaciers, temperature changes, marine life, and collecting geological samples. Their work has become critical as Antarctica provides an early warning of the “greenhouse effect.”
Every year Australia has had to solve the problem of safe drinking water for the swelling team of investigators at its Antarctic Research Stations. This year, it has turned to Nirosoft Water Industries, an experienced Israeli company, to provide drinking water for its expanding expedition in Davis.
“Desalination is cheaper than melting ice,” said Mino Negrin, managing director and founder of Nirosoft, which simulated the environment at the Davis Station in its R&D labs.
The company’s self-contained desalination unit provides up to 100,000 liters a day of purified, desalinated water. Its Lego-like portability makes it easy to ship by air. “We can produce drinking water from almost any source – sea water, rivers and lakes, brackish groundwater, estuaries and lagoons,” said Negrin, who hopes to visit the Antarctic Station sometime this year.
This is not the first time that Australia has used Nirosoft’s technology. The Australian Defense Forces, alongside the Belgian and US forces, have been using Nirosoft technology in remote locations for years. Australia has also bought Nirosoft’s RO (reverse osmosis) purification systems for production of drinking water from brackish groundwater for remote Aboriginal communities.
Nirosoft has been at the forefront of water purification for many years. After the tsunami in South East Asia in 2004, UNICEF asked the company to supply drinking water to people living in the Maldives, which was badly hit by the disaster.
“Huge waves had destroyed wells for drinking water on the islands,” Negrin told ISRAEL21c. “In record time, we sent out 10 mobile units to desalinate the water. These units are still working,” he added, showing a video clip of a mobile water purification unit (with the logos of UNICEF and Nirosoft prominently displayed) being taken off a barge on one of the exotic islands. “In fact, at the request of the government, we recently sent one of our technicians to do maintenance and training.”
The UN (High Council for Refugees) also turned to the privately owned Karmiel-based company to supply drinking water to refugee camps in Kosovo and Albania. The company was also commissioned for relief projects in Latin America.
Lack of an energy source is not a constraint. The Israeli company has shipped containerized, self-powered units easily transported by small trucks, to supply drinking water to villages in disaster areas in Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia. Water produced meets the most stringent World Health Organization quality standards.
Two of the main advantages of the system are that use of chemicals is minimal, and operating costs are low. No wonder Negrin was sought out by Chinese television. China, with a thirsty population of over 1.3 billion, is facing a water crisis. The rollicking economy is a mixed blessing. Water pollution is rampant. Demand keeps rising as cities, agriculture, and industry compete for diminishing supplies. “We are already selling our products in China,” said Negrin, who sees a big market for Nirosoft in China. “Our products are needed to help solve China’s severe water problems.”
Nirosoft’s high tech products use UF (ultra filtration), RO (reverse osmosis), and nano-filtration, as well as ion exchange, and membrane bio-reactors (MBR) for heavily loaded industrial and domestic waste streams. Industrial wastewater treatment is a rapidly growing segment of the business. Increasingly stringent environmental regulations have increased demand by industry. Culprits are the paper industry, chemicals, electronics, metal, printing, and even the food industry. Cosmetics and chocolates would seem to be innocent products, but even they require wastewater treatment.
Nirosoft offers tailor-made solutions for each installation. Minimal use of chemicals and a high level of automation and control are major benefits it offers.
The company has also developed advanced innovative technology and processes in response to the increasing demand for ultra-pure water (UPW) by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, as well as medical and research laboratories, the food supplement industry, microprocessor and electronic components manufacturers.
Another growing segment is effluent (sludge) reclamation by membrane separation. Treated municipal sewage can yield water that is used for irrigation of vineyards and vegetables. Recycling of as much as 50 percent of wastewater from textile dye production is an achievement. Excess irrigation water in a hydroponic nursery is recycled with none of the nutrients lost.
“Our goal is green, environmentally-friendly, technology,” said Negrin. The enterprising managing director of Nirosoft, came to Israel in 1981, after graduation from high school in Milan, Italy. He served in the Israeli Army, and then went to the Technion Israel Institute of Science where he majored in industrial engineering and management.
“My father had been in commerce in Milan. In the late ’80s, he identified the issue of water. ‘Water is the future. We can do something good for the world.’” The Negrins had a house with a two-car garage in Haifa. “We took out the cars and started the business in the garage,” said Mino Negrin.
Nirosoft was officially established in 1990. The company’s offices, R&D, and manufacturing plant are now nestled in the green hills of the Galilee. “We have 40 designers and engineers in Israel, and also offices in Italy.” The family business has one outside investor. “Ronald Lauder invested in the company in 2004. We are now a two-family business,” said Negrin.
“Water scarcity is a global problem. There is not enough water in the rivers. The sea is the only other fresh water. We are constantly improving our technology,” said Negrin. And expanding markets: Sales are expected to double next year.