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Mangawhai startup aims to solve water tank supply problems



Libby and Toby in front of water tank (credit Jana Allen)-186Long, hot summers – the kind we love – can also pose major problems. When Libby and Toby Evans moved to Mangawhai in 2016 they expected the minor inconvenience of managing their own water supply. They never expected to create a startup that gives people living on tank water the confidence of never running out. 

The husband and wife team – Libby as managing director, Toby as technical director – are cofounders of Tankful, one of eight Northland startup businesses in The Pick: 2018’s Investment Ready competition, selected for showcasing to angel investors this month. 

Upon moving to Mangawhai, they became frustrated with relying on tank water as they often struggled to work out how much water was in their tank and how long it would last. 

“It’s about minimising the negative impact of water shortages for people who live on tank water,” Toby says. “We searched for a smart, affordable product, but found nothing suitable. So we decided to build our own.”

Tankful is a cloud-connected water level monitoring system, the first of its kind to focus solely on the residential market with intelligent predictions based on multiple data points.

In January 2017 local water cartage firms around Mangawhai were temporarily locked out from being able to top up at filling stations. The spin-off meant carriers had longer drives resulting in less people getting their water delivered, pushing wait times to several weeks. Families waiting for water were forced to purchase drinking water, showering at friends and using laundromats. Bach owners also reported turning down or cancelling bookings, impacting their rental income.

Libby and Toby are receiving plenty of local interest in their beta release – Mangawhai is one of the many ‘urban pockets’ which doesn’t have a town water supply. Supporters including specialists in electrical engineering have worked alongside Toby to put together the prototype.

As well as the existing potential customers, population growth and climate change will increase the demand for houses having their own water supply by means of rainwater collection.

“We are experiencing longer dry seasons,” Libby says. “NIWA reports climate changes are expected to increase the drought frequency and intensity for New Zealand. There is a lot of talk of the agriculture impacts of this but limited awareness within residential communities, particularly those on tank water. When you run out, so do others in your neighbourhood, that puts pressure on bulk water delivery companies. We’ve seen people time and time again getting caught out.”

Tankful won a Supreme Award at The Pick: 2017, Northland Inc’s Business Ideas Awards, and was a finalist in the Innovation category at the Northland Business Excellence Awards last month. 

Tankful has been taking part in Tai Tokerau Business Incubator, a partnership between Northland Inc and the ecentre, funded by Callaghan Innovation, and will be featured in a showcase collaboration with Northland Inc, NZTE and Angel Association New Zealand.

 For more information, or to register your interest in the beta release, visit Tankful.nz

As frustrated tank water users, Libby and Toby Evans decided to create their own cloud-connected water level monitoring system.  (PHOTO/Jana Allen)

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