A tomato is about 95 per cent water. But have you ever thought about what happens to that water when tomato sauce is made?
In most cases, it's tipped down the drain or into our waterways. It's both bad for the environment and a waste of water, according to Terry Paule, executive chairman of AquaBotanical, a world-first company turning water waste from vegetables into bottled drinking water.
AquaBotanical is a three-year-old start-up that partners with concentrate factories, sugar mills and distillers to capture unused water, clean it, put it in bottles and onto tables.
"For generations we've caught rain water to make mineral water. This is a new source of water which is available all around the world," Paule says.
It's called "botanical water" but unlike plant-based waters like those made from coconut or aloe vera, this variety tastes just like water from your tap. No different flavour, just a different source.
The idea was first born in 1998, when chemist Bruce Kambouris was working on a winery in the Riverland region of South Australia.
Kambouris says he witnessed a part of the wine-making process that involves concentrating grapes and it was "alarming" to see how much water was wasted in the process.
"That's when I got the idea. I said to myself, 'I wonder how much of this is going on around the world.'"
Fast-forward a decade and the chemist turned his attention to a carrot grower in Mildura. From the 65,000 tonnes of carrots produced each year, 15 per cent of the "ugly" carrots don't make it to supermarkets and are turned into concentrate. From every tonne of these processed carrots, up to to 600 litres of water can be captured.
Kambouris developed and patented the technology to purify the water then turned his sights on other fruits – citrus, pears, apples and sugar cane.
"I was able to produce very nice drinking water from it," he says.
Paule heard of this venture and wanted to get involved. He got on a Rex flight to Mildura to meet Kambouris and three years later, the company now has partnerships with a tomato concentrate factory in Echuca and a sugar mill on the Gold Coast.
We sum it up by saying 'we grow water'.Terry Paule
The water is available in supermarkets and restaurants around the country. If you buy from the website, a 330-millimetre bottle will set you back less than $2.
But the pair don't just view their plant-based water as a beverage.
"Water scarcity is one of the three biggest problems in the world," Paule says. "This technology can not only generate drinking water but it can help create drinking water in parts of the world where there will soon be wars fought over water."
He refers to the expansion of the product as the "plantification" of water, and likens it to Elon Musk's "electrification" of the car. Paule sees the company on the brink of a worldwide expansion and said there are plans to set up relationships with mega bottling brands.
"Coke, Pepsi, they all need clean water to make their drinks. At the moment they source it from rivers, wells, wherever. But we've created a new source of water."
But perhaps the biggest hurdle for the company is public perception. Customers often hear "water made from fruit and vegetables" and are turned off, concerned about the impact on flavour.
"Intellectually they've got to get their heads around it. But once they try it, people love this water.
"We're excited about it coming into the warmer months. Melbourne Cup through Easter are the key selling periods for water."
Next month, the company will provide water for Global Table – a business to business forum for innovative food products. Here, Paule hopes that industry leaders will taste and understand the story of his water.
"We sum it up by saying 'we grow water'."
AquaBotanical is one of the many innovative and cutting-edge producers appearing at food innovation and agribusiness summit Global Table, at the Melbourne Showgrounds, Ascot Vale, from September 3-6. To buy tickets go to globaltable.com.au