Column: St. Petersburg company to turn air into water

Ever heard of anyone trying to mint money from thin air?

A fledgling St. Petersburg company is attempting just that.

Aqua Ventus says it has developed a process that converts air molecules into water — 20 gallons a day. The product resembles an oversized cooler that you would drag to the beach.

Its target market? Affluent people in the Southeast with portable or standby generators, says James Hill, founder and CEO. "They are cautious about securing power supply, so they would store water, too," Hill said.

The company is a spinoff of Marine Desalination System, a St. Petersburg business that does scientific research and development on desalting water. Hill is an MDS employee.

The Aqua Ventus water generator was inspired by water scarcity during times of natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

"It's an alternative to storing bottled water in the garage," Hill said.

The company says it uses an environmentally friendly refrigeration system to condense water from air. It plans a smaller version of the product, too. The company has yet to set a price.

The product is turning some heads. Aqua Ventus was the only Tampa Bay company accepted to present at the first early stage investor conference organized by the Florida Venture Forum in Orlando on Friday. More than 300 investors signed up for the event.

Robin Kovaleski, the forum's executive director, says the prospects are "very favorable'' for presenting companies this year.

"The angel groups have coalesced in the state and they are maturing," she said. "On top of that, the traditional investors are going out to get new funds, which gives them more flexibility to take risks."

Hill's goal is to raise $2.5-million. Only time will tell if it's tougher to make money appear from angels than water appear from air.

Madhusmita Bora can be reached at mbora@sptimes.com or (813) 225-3112.

Column: St. Petersburg company to turn air into water 05/16/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2008 10:49pm]

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