NWP was recently joined by BoxBarrier BV, which was formed at the start of 2021, having obtained the patent for the established temporary flood defence system of the same name. "The product is a replacement for sandbags," says company CEO Raymond Hofer. "The boxes are attached to each other and filled with water to create a line of defence."
The product was originally launched by the Royal BAM Group, its development following a design competition by Waterboard Delfland.
The comparison with sandbags is important, as these remain the traditional emergency response to flooding. "The reason we believe in BoxBarrier is the speed and ease of its deployment, once you have it in a centralised depot," says Hofer.
Hofer explains that the boxes are easily lifted, and that one box has the volume of 40 sandbags. He notes that in floods earlier this year in the Netherlands, around 60,000 sandbags were used to span approximately 800 metres. "We read in the media that they deployed this with over 600 people. If we did 800 metres of BoxBarrier, you would probably have 20 people do it within the hour, if you have the system ready to deploy," he says.
The prospects for climate change mean that the need for temporary flood protection is only likely to increase. "Everybody knows the weather is going to be more extreme," says Hofer. "A lot of cities around the world are not protected against high water, and we increasingly see that floods are caused by heavy rainfall. I think, especially with the way that early forecasting systems are starting to be more and more accurate, you need temporary flood systems for deployment, that you can build up quickly."
According to Hofer, permanent solutions for upgrading and protecting infrastructure usually involve great expense. "We are going to need products like BoxBarrier in the world to minimise the damage to vital infrastructure," he says.
Such prospects are increasing the market for temporary flood protection measures. "You see more and more products around the world," says Hofer, adding: "I don't think BoxBarrier is just a product to sell in the Netherlands - we are looking internationally."
In fact, the company is set for rapid change. "Our goal is to set up a worldwide network," says Hofer, with discussions underway with distributors and manufacturers to allow production on different continents. "Our goal within the next two years is to set up a worldwide distribution and manufacturing system for the BoxBarrier," he adds.
The company early move to join NWP was very much with these ambitions in mind. "NWP is our link with Consulates and Embassies, and with stakeholders in different countries. Plus, they have the network and knowledge to set up meetings with other countries, other parties, and other cities," he says, with Canada and the USA being a current focus. "NWP and the Consulate help open up doors for us," he adds.
If we used 800 metres of BoxBarrier, 20 people could deploy it within the hour, if you have the system ready to go.
Hofer explains that prior to forming the new company, he had been working for the Royal BAM Group as an independent contractor selling intellectual property and patents internationally. BoxBarrier was one of these. "I did that for a couple of years, throughout the world," he says.
According to Hofer, the Royal BAM Group decided to focus more on its core business. "When the BoxBarrier patent became available, I contacted an investor and he was very interested in buying it. That is how we came to set up the company BoxBarrier," he says.
"I truly believe that, with all the climate change in the world, products like BoxBarrier will succeed more and more, because the sandbag is really outdated," says Hofer. First and foremost, Hofer agrees that this presents a business opportunity, but one from which many people can benefit. "We see that, especially in the poorer countries who are in mega need for products like this, it is a great challenge for us, and western countries in general, to try to help."
This all means that Hofer is looking ahead with a different perspective. "I am obviously more of an entrepreneur now," he says. "We own the product, so it is very exciting."