Start-up produces clean water from thin air

Majik Water founders (left to right) Anastasia Kaschenko, Beth Koigi and Clare Sewell

Three young entrepreneurs have joined forces in Nairobi Kenya to create a product that generates clean drinking water out of thin air.

Majik Water aims to serve rural and urban populations, mainly in Kenya, where increasing water scarcity poses a serious threat to communities. The device utilises hydrophilic materials to adsorb water from the atmosphere which, when subjected to heat and filtration, produces a plentiful supply of clean drinking water. With a target selling price of 1 cent per litre, it can be used to serve communities in the lowest income bracket.

“Where we’re operating, the air is lacking in humidity. To design for that we use desiccants – water loving materials. The best place you’d find those is if you buy a new pair of shoes or a bag, and there’s a tiny packet of clear balls,” Anastasia Kaschenko, Majik Water’s CTO, told The Source.

“That’s silica, and a variation of that is the exact desiccant we use in our prototyping now. The reason we use that is because it’s abundantly available, it’s cheap and it’s non-toxic.”

Kaschenko believes democratisation of water is key to the Majik Water project and has the potential to rid the Kenyan water market of illegal actors who exploit scarcity by selling untested water.

“There are informal players, such as the water mafia and resellers. Individuals or groups that are selling supposedly clean drinking water, but this water is both untested and the quality is unverified.”

The trio met in Silicon Valley in August 2017 during an entrepreneurial programme, which tasked participants with conceiving an idea that could impact one billion people in 10 years. Beth Koigi, its CEO, had been running a successful Kenyan water filtration company for five years before but faced challenges due to decreasing water tables.

Majik Water founders pose with their unique invention

“Filtration becomes irrelevant when there isn’t anything to filter. That was at the front of her mind when she came to California. She’d heard my team at the time was working on dew harvesting, and so she approached me and asked if it was possible in dry and very arid areas,” said Kaschenko.

“That was how we started looking into that technology and that space. We are three women, from three different continents, in a place none of us had been prior to meeting.”

Although Majik Water is still in its prototyping stage in Kenya, the company has international ambitions and is aiming to serve 70,000 people each day by 2022. If their target is met, the entrepreneurs will consider widening their reach to East Africa, although Kaschenko said the product has garnered global interest.

“We’ve actually received interest from places like Qatar, South Africa and southern India where understandably it is quite dry as well. We’re very open to that and that’s in our long-term plan for sure.”