Bandon company Acorn Water has ambitious plans for its water testing service, writes Trish Dromey.
Tapping into growing concerns about water quality and water contamination, Bandon company Acorn Water has ambitious growth plans for a new water testing service launched this year.
Its H2Olabcheck targets householders and farmers as well as commercial customers.
It sells kits online and conducts testing and provides customers with a report which can be downloaded from its website.
“Our aim is to make water testing quick and easy,” said chief technology officer William Holland.
“At present, all the testing is being done at our laboratory in Bandon but we are planning to build up a network of partner laboratories so that we can develop sales in Ireland and also in the UK,” he said.
Acorn Water, set up by William’s parents Bill and Eileen Holland, has been manufacturing water treatment chemicals for supply to industry and water utilities for over 20 years.
Conducting water quality testing was always a small part of the business, but in 2013 William and his brother Aidan saw an opportunity to scale it up, establish a new brand, and develop sales nationally and internationally.
In 2013, the Holland brothers designed new test kits in six categories, covering drinking water, river and lake water, aquarium water, wastewater, and industrial process water.
The next step was the building of a 50 sq metre water quality and innovation lab, which was completed last year, at a cost of €250,000.
Operating H2Olabcheck as a division of Acorn Water, the Holland brothers contracted a developer to work on the technology for the new venture.
This involved the development of a bespoke cloud-based sample management system as well as a payment system which can be used with partner laboratories.
The Hollands believe that H2Olabcheck is the first service anywhere to provide online water test results.
Mr Holland says that one of the key selling points for the service is that it explains the test results in layman’s terms to the customer.
“We have a traffic light system —green for satisfactory, orange for an alert, and red for a fail,” he said.
Since the new website went live in January this year, Mr Holland says they have more than doubled sales of test kits on last year and that the biggest growth has been in drinking water test kits which sell to both households and businesses.
“A lead test kit costs €40, a bacterial test costs €56 while a full water quality test costs €140,” he said, adding that costs go up to €420 for a carcinogen check for water where contamination or pollution is suspected.
Now that the technology and the website have been tested and validated, he says the next step for H2Olabcheck will be to develop a network of partner laboratory companies.
Discussions have already started with laboratories in Ireland and he expects the company to have brought two or three labs onboard by the end of the year.
“In 2019, we expect to be ready to develop partnerships in the UK and possibly in Europe by the end of the year. Our aim is to have a network of in excess of 200 labs by 2023,” he explains.
The creation of H2Olabcheck has meant Acorn Water is looking to hire more staff. It currently employs 10 people.
Acorn Water chief executive Aidan Holland says the company is currently recruiting with a view to doubling the workforce over the next 12 months.
“We are looking for people in the areas of development, content creation, environmental science, and international marketing, finance, and sales,” he said.
Supported by Enterprise Ireland which recently provided it with an Innovation Voucher, H2Olabcheck has been shortlisted for a Spider Award in the Best Tech Start Up category.