Aquagear’s Journey From Servicing the Developing World to US Retail Markets

November 16, 2015

9:00 pm

Gary Hess wrote the beginnings of Aquagear with the ink of social good and humanitarian aid. Initially, he built it as a high-grade water filtration hardware specifically for the developing world but would soon pass the responsibility of Aquagear to his son, Steve, who would maintain the company’s commitment to providing clean water the world over while also building a US, retail presence.

At its beginning, Aquagear was deployed with groups like the Red Cross or the Mormon Church when they were doing relief or missionary work in under developed or disaster stricken parts of the globe. They would take Aquagear filters with them to ensure that their team members could safely drink the local water.

They would also hand out the filters to the local populace so that they could drink their water safely if it had been compromised. Interestingly enough, Hess tells me that the Aquagear was used in these situations as a short term solution to provide access to clean drinking water while longer term plans were implemented.

“Ultimately, it’s best for a region to build clean water wells, but those are longer term projects,” says Steve Hess, current General Manager and cofounder at Aquagear. “During those four or five months while everything is being figured out, Aquagear is 100 percent necessary.”

Looking at Aquagear through the lens of a humanitarian tool no doubt shows how valuable it is, but the younger Hess couldn’t help but think that it was something the US markets would enjoy as well. So, he got together with Shane Stead, who would become his Director of Marketing, and the two worked to adapt the technology into a more compact, pitcher style filter for retail markets.


What I find brilliant about Aquagear is that their prototyping phase had already been taken care of when Hess came to this realization. Further, it had been done by running Aquagear through some of the harshest, most grueling filtration conditions on the planet. For example, when the earthquake hit Haiti, Hess tells me that they were able to help reduce Cholera infested water supplies and save lives – talk about a proof of concept.

“When there’s giardia, viruses, and pathogens in the local water supply, it can be a life and death situation,” says Hess. “Even in some developed parts of the world water treatment isn’t consistent.”

Granted, the overall quality of US tap water isn’t horrible: you can drink it untreated and you won’t die. However, while US consumers might not need to remove viruses and pathogens from their water supply, there are still an abundance of contaminants floating around. We’re talking agricultural waste, recycled water with excess medicines, and industrial pollutants: all of this is in your water supply.

Take Northern California for example – they have a big chromium 6 problem. And don’t even get me started on the horrific situation that’s been unfolding in Flint, Michigan. The EPA has even said that exposure to these chemicals increases cancer risk, birth defects, and overall malaise.

To help put these issues to bed, Aquagear uses five proprietary media – referred to as “scavenger media” – with each zone designed to remove a specific group of contaminants. While Hess can’t divulge the secret sauce that makes his filter one of the most robust on the market, he was able to tell us that one of the filtration media is coconut carbon. Coconut carbon is popularly used to reduce chlorine in tap water – a common additive to eliminate living, microbiological pathogens in our water supply.

“Chlorine is a free agent in tap water and will bond with other contaminants in a treated water source. You get stuff like chloroform forming in tap water – there are hundreds of chlorine byproducts like this,” says Hess.

All five of the scavenger media in Aquagear are bonded together in a heat process so that they effectively become a singular, composite shell in the water filter. The Aquagear itself is a gravity fed pitcher, but unlike Brita features a twisted, tortured pathway for the water to flow through: it’s designed to be a labyrinthine maze.

Despite having a long distance to travel through for filtration, Hess and Stead were able to design what they call fast flow technology, which lets the water pass through the maze relatively quickly. Further, they chose to base all of their operations and manufacturing in the US and still include a heavy element of social good into their business practices, like their recent Drops for Joy campaign.

Now, I’m not writing this to strike fear into your hearts. Rather, I want you to be aware of what you’re putting into your body. I’ve personally made the switch from Brita to Aquagear, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that Brita doesn’t come close to matching the filtered contaminants that Aquagear removes.

There was also a heavy economics influence to me decision as well: Aquagear filters last for 150 gallons versus the 40 gallon Brita capacity. They also have a subscription plan where you can get new filters delivered to your door every six months, and old filters are completely recyclable. Check out their video to see just how they stack up:

Image Credit: Aquagear PR team

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Will is a Senior Writer with Tech.Co, based out of America's Finest City: San Diego. He covers all territory West of the Mississippi river, digging deep for awesome local entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas. He's the resident Android junkie and will be happy to tell you why you should switch to the OS. When he's off the clock, Will focuses his literary talent on the art of creative writing...or you might find him surfing in Ocean Beach. Follow Will on Twitter @WJS1988

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