15 years ago Henrik Johansson, founder and CEO of Spowdi, faced a challenge in the forests north of Uppsala, Sweden. It would be the beginning of a most unlikely innovation process. To be able to farm crayfish he needed to pump water between two ponds with no electricity for miles. Henrik called on a relative to help solve the problem.
– We didn’t really want to build a pump, we just wanted to eat crayfish, says Henrik.
There was a problem that had to be solved before they got to enjoy their crawfish party. They got started experimenting. For the following days, they tried all pumps that could be powered with a couple of car batteries. But none of them got the job done.
– The pumps broke down in the tough environment. They either clogged up with plant residues or something got stuck in the pump and it overheated. We tried all low voltage pumps that were available but none of them worked, says Henrik.
All the pumps they tried were sinkable rotating pumps that clogged up and got overheated. They then started experimenting with compressed air to pump water. Weeks later they had their first prototype and it worked!
They had built their first functioning pump, powered with compressed air by using an old compressor from a refrigerator and the inner tube from a bicycle. The pump didn’t only work in the tough environment of the forest pond, it consumed significantly less electricity than all other pumps they had tested before.
Henrik didn’t know it at the time, but the idea that later led to the first Spowdi system had started to grow.