Decontamination thanks to UV, the radiant business of UV Germi

The 2024 Olympic Games swimming events will have a special touch for the athletes. Gone are the well-known pool smells, swimmers will swim in a healthy atmosphere: to protect them from the dangers of chlorine, 15 swimming pools at the Saint-Denis Olympic Aquatic Center and several training centers will be equipped with ultraviolet dechloraminator reactors. A contract won by an unknown SME: UV Germi. This nugget from Corrèze, specialized in disinfection by UV rays, could go even further, it is in “advanced discussion” with the city of Paris to designate a part of the Seine where the open water events will be held. disinfect.

Sanitize water in seconds, without chemicals. The process seems incredible, but it’s completely natural: the sun’s UV-C rays destroy bacteria and viruses. A principle that UV Germi has managed to industrialize.

Its founder, André Bordas, was a visionary when he responded in the 1990s to a tender from the Corrèze Chamber of Agriculture for ten UV reactors to disinfect irrigation water. With only one electrical winding CAP as an academic background, this self-taught man decided to make one himself, rather than buy it in the United States, the only option available at the time. A successful bet for this 70-year-old rugby and motorsport enthusiast, in 1995 he produced his first UV reactor. And it’s a success. So much so that in 2009 he founded a second company, UV Germi, to devote himself entirely to the subject, leaving the reins of his first structure to his daughter.

André Bordas, founder of UV Germi, and Willy Fortunato, director of SME. Credit: Agathe Beaujon/Challenges

“Take care of the water”

Swimming pools, aquaculture, aquariums, industries, agri-food, agriculture… the fields of application are endless. For example, the SME equips 2,500 swimming pools, but also the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, the Beauval Zoo or even Coca-Cola for the health safety of its tanks.

Aside from the health aspect, at a time when France is suffering from drought, UV rays can provide significant water savings. For example, a dechloraminator in a public swimming pool saves 30 liters of new water per day and per bather, otherwise needed to limit the toxicity of chlorine. “Providing water is a duty, emphasizes Willy Fortunato, general manager of UV Germi. It is absurd to clean sidewalks or irrigate with drinking water. We have to reuse our waste water.”

It is on this principle that Auïtou’s greenhouse in Egletons in Corrèze works, producing tomatoes on hydroponics, without pesticides. Traditionally, irrigation water is never reused in agriculture; if a tomato plant is sick, the whole greenhouse would be infected. But with UV Germi, the unused greenhouse water is disinfected and returns to the circuit; enough to save water and 30 to 40% fertilizer.

A technology that can also be used to make water drinkable. There are still about 20,000 households in Provence that are not connected to the drinking water network. Powered by the Société du canal de Provence (SCP), they are required to install a drinking water system. For this purpose, SCP has been distributing approximately 300 Germi UV devices per year for 15 years. “We respect the call for competition, but UV Germi is the best,” assures Jean-Marc Philip, commercial director of SCP, which plans to expand its water treatment offering to 10,000 additional households at a time. “No problem” for Willy Fortunato who ensures that his SME will have enough money to respond to such an order.

48 Staff members
6.3 million euro turnover in 2021
2500 public swimming pools equipped with Germi UV reactors

Investors tempted

And this success appeals to investors. The listed SME raised 3 million euros in January and aims to double its turnover by the end of 2023 – 6.3 million euros in 2021 – thanks to its diversification strategy.

The company with 48 employees invests 20% in R&D. After water from swimming pools, agriculture or industry, this policy has made it possible to disinfect air and surfaces. “We should be concerned about the air we breathe like the water we drink,” argues André Bordas. The pandemic proved him right. Limoges hospital, Larche college in Corrèze, EDF for nuclear power plants… They were all convinced.

“UV-C is effective. It’s a good idea to disinfect wastewater, operating theaters or medical instruments,” said Georges Zissis, a physicist at the University of Toulouse III. However, they also pose a risk of cancer if exposed. So not in everyone’s hands. “In schools, it is better to open a window,” says the professor, while SMEs are counting on Emmanuel Macron’s promise to equip all public buildings with air purifiers.

“The Corrèze in catheter”

Faced with its only French competitor, Bio-UV (44 million euros in turnover), UV Germi relies on the strength of its values: sustainability and made in Corrèze. Maintenance represents 25% of turnover. “Everything is assembled by hand, repairable and recyclable. We have stock. Years ago we were seen as enlightened, today we are “pioneers”, laughs Willy Fortunato who loudly resumes head of the famous words of the group Trois cafes gourmands on the road between two customers: “I have the Corrèze in the catheter” UV Germi makes it a point to produce in France, and if possible at home. “Because performance can only be local”, assures the CEO. stainless steel housings of UV reactors, for example, are manufactured by the family laser cutting company RMA, which is located 12 kilometers from UV Germi. “Geographical proximity facilitates the work of our design offices to improve rigidity and save materials,” says manager Fabrice Réparat. a global market estimated at 2.5 billion today and 6 billion in 2027, “the prospects are endless,” assures Willy Fortunato, confident of its bright future. my UV rays.

Drinking water in Africa thanks to UV

Outside the French borders, UV Germi and SCP have joined forces with start-up Mios, Danone Communities and Crédit Agricole in a joint venture: Oshun, which provides drinking water solutions in Senegal and Burkina Faso. “Africa will not be able to afford a centralized infrastructure for access to drinking water, this will require water treatment at the point of use,” said Jean-Marc Philip. Oshun, named after the goddess of fresh water, has already installed 300 Germi UV devices for 215,000 beneficiaries, with devices sold to schools, or to entrepreneurs to open a kiosk selling drinking water. Enough to save 11,2000 sachets and 9,400 plastic bottles by operating just 15 water kiosks in one year. And that while it is 40 times cheaper than bottled water.

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