Melvyn Davenport is a keen gardener. So when, with a drought looming, he worried about watering his flowers, he had the bright idea of saving not just rainwater, but the ‘grey’ water from showers and sinks, to re-use for the garden, toilet, and even for washing the car.
And with funding from the Sheffield City Region making the project possible, production is underway.
Melvyn’s idea has become the ‘Watflo System’, which has two parts: the ‘Brainbox’ computer which controls water flowing simultaneously both into and out of an everyday garden water butt, through a two-way ‘diverter’ pipe – another of his inventions. Saving and re-using both sources of water make it a unique product.
Brainbox displays the amount of water being used and saved, and in the future will be able to be monitored by an app from anywhere in the world. Since flushing the toilet in the average household can be up to 30% of total use, and hosepipes can use 1,000 litres an hour, that means a considerable financial saving for those who are metered. Baths, showers, dishwashers and washing machines can also be connected to the system.
Melvyn, a retired, plastic injection specialist living in Wath, Rotherham, made a successful £47,000 grant application through the Sheffield City Region to the Business Investment Fund, which has supported the tooling costs for the Brainbox. He worked closely with a Sheffield City Region business specialist to refine the concept, and obtain the grant, and says: “I was very lucky to have the help of Henry Murch, the City Region Access to Finance Advisor. He was highly experienced and able to help me overcome a range of issues that needed resolving, and was infinitely patient. I can’t thank him enough!
“Watflo wouldn’t be in existence if it weren’t for the SCR funding.”
Further design and packaging work for the podlike Brainbox was done with Sheffield Hallam University’s Design Futures group, and the system has been patented.
Melvyn now has a five-year agreement for worldwide distribution to market Watflo with a major company in the renewables market, demonstrating that there is a big market for the idea.
He added: “While the key benefit in the UK is savings on water bills, in countries with water shortages the system could massively save water consumption and significantly improve the quality of life for many people.”
Dave Grimes, Head of the City Region Growth Hub said: “This Region has a strong business ethic – we grab each opportunity and make the most of it, whatever the size of the company, whatever its sector and whatever its ambition. We do this daily with regional and international business partners alike.”
Parts for Watflo Systems Ltd are made by companies in Doncaster and Rotherham and assembled in Wath.
Key account and business growth managers from Rotherham MBC also supported Melvyn’s application. Jon Denton provided support with developing marketing strategy, sales techniques and apprenticeships; Sue Harrison referred Watflo to the Access to Finance Centre of Excellence and Finance for Enterprise regarding start-up loans, and Mike Stanley introduced Melvyn to the Northern Powerhouse Investment Team.