BoxBarrier, a member of NWP, teamed up with Canadian-based Hydra International a couple of years ago to expand their market to North America. But seeing the potential of offering a broader portfolio of temporary flood defence systems to the European market, the two companies decided to set up a new Hydra division called Hydra EU. The newly established company is now looking to extend its services with partners in the Netherlands and Europe. Reason enough for Hydra EU to become an NWP Member.
BoxBarrier delivers a proven temporary flood defence system (TFDS) for certain heights and soils. Over the last two years, BoxBarrier has looked at ways to improve its system, and has worked with organisations such as Deltares, Dutch regional water authorities, the Technical University of Delft, and the Royal Netherlands Standardization Institute (NEN). Raymond Hofer, CEO of BoxBarrier and Hydra EU, briefly sums up their process. "Every time we came up with new ideas to further develop the BoxBarrier concept, we felt like we were tampering with an already great product. It is simple to deploy, easy to handle, nestable, and effective for the given circumstances. We felt we had to change tactics."
As every flood situation is unique, there is no one size fits all solution. This demonstrates the need for different TFDSs. Hofer explains that "Hydra International, our North American distributor, already had a product line that consisted of all the things we wanted to add to our product. There was a lot of knowledge available on these products within the organisation, and BoxBarrier seemed a good add-on to their portfolio. Setting up Hydra EU was the next logical step. We now have flood defence systems such as BoxBarrier, Aqua-Barrier, Muscle Wall, IBS Systems, Dam Easy, and HydraShield – all proven products that have excellent track records. We have every height, width, and soil type available in TFDS, and with the IBS Systems, we can also build permanent solutions. The extra synergy is that we combine our products and our knowledge. BoxBarrier has been on the market for more then 10 years and Hydra International has a track record of more than 20 years."
Hydra EU is slowly expanding on the EU market (including the UK) and is now looking for distributors and local partners deploying or selling its TFDS range. These might include technical support companies or companies with a complementary product line. At the moment, Hydra EU is mostly a sales organisation, but in collaboration with Hydra International, the company aims to broaden its services with technical consulting and total assessments. Hydra EU is also acquiring even more knowledge on its products by extending its collaboration with TU Delft and TU Delft's Flood Proof Holland test site.
"This is where our collaboration with NWP comes into play," says Hofer. "NWP is our gateway to its network, comprising embassies, consulates, governments, the international water sector, and stakeholders. But NWP also provides us with business solutions through its in-house programmes. We have been an NWP member through BoxBarrier since 2021, and before that through BAM International, and now also through Hydra EU. We are aiming to expand in Europe and the Netherlands, as well as Canada and the USA. NWP is our step towards that network. NWP has proven to open doors and to get us at the right tables."
With the effects of climate change on the rise, Raymond Hofer is looking for a more centralised approach. "We need early forecasting systems to predict floods and to assess the where, when, and what. Although TFDSs cannot prevent floods, we can certainly minimise the damage to vital infrastructure. In the latest floods in 2021 in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, which caused severe chaos and damage, the main failure in our opinion was communication. Different countries have different strategies. Where the regional water authorities are responsible for the first line of defence in case of flooding in the Netherlands, in Germany this rests with humanitarian foundations and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (Technisches Hilfswerk THW) operating in this field. In Spain this role is done by the army."
Hofer explains his vision for the future. "If it were up to us, we would like to see local governments taking the initiative for decentralised depots with different TFDSs that are ready to be deployed. And we would like to run courses on how and where to deploy them. Governments need to step up and take the lead in committing up front to purchase these types of solutions to try to protect their citizens by minimising damage."
Sandbags still seem to be the traditional emergency response for governments, as we saw in 2021. According to Hofer, "Sandbags will always be needed, but there are other and better options. We need that traditional mindset to change and, of course, we need more integrated thinking on investment. Looking at the costs of the recent floods which severely hit the Dutch province of Limburg, the damage was estimated to be in the range of EUR 1.6 billion. If one of our products would reduce the damage by only five percent, that would already be worth the investment. We were very happy to have the chance to demonstrate what the BoxBarrier can deliver in terms of flood defence capabilities to the regional water authority in Limburg."
Is there a potential role for Hydra EU in terms of prevention and mitigation of these type of events in the future? "Absolutely!" says Hofer. "This is one of the areas where we can provide a wide range of types of flood defence systems for a variety of areas with diverse requirements in terms of height, soil and barrier strength. To demonstrate everything we have to offer, we are proud to present our new company to the NWP Network on 1 December at the NWP Member Meet-up. I invite everyone who is interested to learn more to connect with me during the event. Yet another great opportunity as part of our NWP membership."