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Shaping Tomorrow: Agua de Sol turns air into water thanks to the sun


In France, an ex-supplier of air-drying solutions to the nuclear sector draws from his surroundings and transforms into an unlikely champion of clean, free drinking water.

In an often dense and obscure start-up market, Agua de Sol stands out not for its technological complexity, but for its simplicity, low-tech brilliance, and profound impact. On a mission to bring fresh water to communities in need, and to people drinking plastic bottled water its smart, simple 'SunAir Fountain' fights water scarcity hand in hand with local users and their sky-rocketing needs for clean drinking water.

As climate change ravages the world, underground and surface sources of water are rapidly depleting. The desertification process previously contained in the hottest climates on the planet have already reached more temperate shores. 

Even here in southern Europe, we are in a race against time. What has already happened in countries like Morocco is indicative of what is coming to Europe – years of consecutive drought have left dams empty, and rivers and wells dried up.

Luc Metivier, CEO, and co-founder of Agua de Sol

The obvious solution is sea-water desalination – but processing plants take years to build. They consume a lot of energy only to result in a brine by-product that heavily pollutes the environment, and desalinated water that is often not drunk due to its specific taste and smell.

There is however another solution. Just there, in the air, this is atmospheric water, meaning the moisture hanging in the atmosphere.

Luc Metivier, CEO, and co-founder of Agua de Sol

A global challenge

The data underlines an urgency that is already grimly understood by impacted communities. An eye-watering two billion people do not have access to fresh water in 2024. Even worse, out of five billion people with access to tap water, 2 billion people opt to buy plastic bottled water instead. 

Agua de Sol believes their SunAir Fountain can tackle these twin issues simultaneously.

'At our small level, we are trying to bring water to the needy and eliminate plastic bottled water consumption at the same time. The water in plastic bottles is sourced from groundwater, which is then processed, bottled, transported, consumed, and only maybe recycled. It’s a total waste of resources, money, and people’s health – and for what?'

Luc is passionate about Agua de Sol’s commitment to people over profit and creating a lasting positive change for people around the world. The water produced by the SunAir Fountain is not only three times cheaper than plastic-bottled water but is also environmentally friendly, carbon-free, and free from the health hazards of microplastics.

He emphasises, 'Knowing the situation we are in, what is most rewarding for us is working to create a positive impact in the world.'

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Zero-waste conceptions

The idea for using extracted moisture from the air traces back to Phillip Dekoninck, Agua de Sol’s co-founder and an inventor who previously worked in the nuclear industry. 

Nuclear energy plants are reliant on a dry environment to avoid any potential corrosion to their machinery. Piconet spent years perfecting a system that dried the air inside these plants simply by capturing the humidity in the air and getting rid of it. Having long-observed the wastefulness of these water-eliminating technologies, he realised he could reverse the logic of the original system to tackle water scarcity

Instead of treating the captured water as a wasted byproduct of technology, he envisioned water as the end product of a constructive system.

Without the need to dig for water or build wells, pumps or filters, water captured from the air would be quick, cheap, and readily available. 

Drawing inspiration from solar energy, Piconet and Agua de Sol set an ambitious goal to choose technology that could fit into a similarly sized and familiar panel format. The first prototype took five years to develop, and despite the simple premise, was not without its challenges. 

To make the SunAir Fountain as accessible as possible, Dekoninck had to miniaturise both the machinery and technology used to remove water from the air and create a low-tech, high-design product. 

'The SunAir Fountain can be built very easily, very fast, anywhere in the world. We want our product to be produced locally, not exported from Europe at high financial and environmental costs!' Luc extolls. 

The result is a panel that sources local products – glass, aluminium frames, basic hardware – to be built in on-site factories and employing the local workforce. 

The simplicity of the panel makes it easy to produce in huge quantities locally to directly serve the community in need, in more ways than one. It successfully bridges the gap between those with no access to fresh water, and those who rely on plastic water bottles, and creates local jobs while keeping emissions low.

By contrast, one of Agua de Sol’s global competitors built a high-tech, heavy, and expensive panel for household use. Tailored for a market that prioritises environmentally friendly aesthetics over efficiency, the competing panels diverge in their purpose to bring life-saving resources to the people. 

'We rely on pure physics, simplicity and mass availability,' Luc explains. 'The panel has to be self-sufficient – because water is a staple and not a product. It’s not to be trifled with. Only a low-tech device that can be produced en masse can have a mass impact.'

A community of support

But to scale up to this extent required money, and a crack team of dedicated engineers. Recognising the potential of a nearly 5-billion-person market, Agua de Sol knew they needed external support to take their vision and product far and wide. A chance encounter with an EIT Community post on LinkedIn led them to apply for an EIT Food programme on water scarcity, marking the beginning of a transformative relationship.

Aside from financial support, the programme also provided practical workshops, brainstorming sessions, and a way to connect with potential users. 

'Either they like us, or we are good – or both,' joked Luc Metivier, as Agua de Sol continued to secure monetary prizes and recognition through various other EIT programmes, receiving close to EUR 100 000 in total. 'Their assistance enabled the start-up to expedite deployment, establish local manufacturing, and eliminate the carbon footprint of exports between Europe and Africa.'

It also created space and confidence necessary to envision further iterations of the SunAir Fountain prototype, and how the panels could be used commercially and industrially. 

A match-making workshop organised by EIT in Bilbao as part of the programme led Agua de Sol to test the SunAir Fountain in Greece with communities who were already facing water scarcity issues. 

For decades, lack of rainfall left 800 Greek islands without regular access to fresh water, resulting in a mass exodus of island inhabitants towards mainland cities out of necessity. 

'With climate change, this will be replicated on a global scale with mass movement to find water,' worries Luc, underlining the growing need for a local solution like the SunAir Fountain. 

For the first time, Agua de Sol’s team were able to see how their prototype worked in real-life, engaging with potential users for feedback on the panel. The precious revelations from the testing stages unveiled a previously unforeseen dimension to their project. 


 A farming family on one of the Aegean islands, facing water scarcity for decades, realised they could use the SunAir Fountain to re-establish year-round agriculture. Water could be captured and stored in a full tank for 9 months out of the year – making it possible to water gardens, grow produce, and sell to hotels and tourists in the summer months. Local needs and circumstances changed the entire scope of what Agua de Sol had envisioned. 

This altered Agua de Sol's initial vision, proving the versatility and adaptability of their innovation.

Now, a second version of the SunAir Fountain will be tested in preparation for industrial and commercial production by September of this year. Local factories will soon be able to produce large amounts of fresh water to sell to corporations, NGOs, hotels, and anyone willing to change their consumption habits and cut out plastic bottled water. 

Beyond financial assistance, EIT Community programmes have allowed Agua de Sol to dream big and reach new heights. Luc emphasises the value of the relationships fostered with the EIT team, expressing gratitude for ongoing discussions about pilots, progress, and the future:

'From one lucky application, we received consistent support, and a wide range of programmes designed to give us the skills to formalise our offering to external funders – we had the product, and now thanks to the EIT Community we know how to tell our story to future investors.'

He beams with pride as he describes Agua de Sol’s official selection by the French delegation to showcase the SunAir Fountain during COP28 in Dubai, sparking massive interest in their product and opening up new markets in the UAE. 


 'The EIT Community gave us both hard skills and human support, which was so valuable for a small company like us. It’s the people at EIT who give life to what is normally a cold and technical funding programme process.'

Catherine Breyssens, EIT Community Business Creation Programme Manager, agrees that a strong relationship is the foundation for successful start-ups: 

'We’ve remained in constant contact with Agua de Sol, and greatly enjoyed supporting their journey to success – whether they’ve needed our practical know-how, community support, or market expertise, EIT Community's wide range of programmes and dedicated team members share their vision for a world that works for people and planet. They are proof that our programmes do indeed fill the gaps that would otherwise stop people with great ideas from reaching their goals.'

As Agua de Sol moves towards industrial and commercial stages, the start-up remains committed to its vision. Luc Metivier believes that 'simple technologies can make big changes, if and when re-used in different contexts' and with EIT's support, their journey has become a beacon of hope for communities grappling with water scarcity.

In the quest for a brighter, water-secure future, Agua de Sol stands as a testament to the power of innovation, collaboration, and a commitment to building technology that leaves a positive impact on the world.