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Tapping tomatoes: Central Valley processors making drinking water from tomatoes

Truckloads of tomatoes containing drinking water are processed in the central valley
Water is being harvested from tomatoes in the Central Valley 03:08

MERCED COUNTY - Truckloads of tomatoes lined up for processing in California's San Joaquin Valley at Ingomar Packing. The Merced County facility sees more than a million tons each season. 

Usually, they're turned into products like tomato paste for use in ketchup and sauces. But this year, the processor is tapping into something else hidden inside: fresh drinking water. A raw tomato is about 95 percent water, and Ingomar is tapping into new technology to harvest and purify it.

"We harvest the water that naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables," explains Terry Paule, CEO of Botanical Water Technologies.

The process was first invented in Australia nearly a decade ago.


"What we do is we cleverly catch that evaporative condensate and then we run it through our purification process," said Paule.

Now he's trying to introduce that process to the rest of the world. Ingomar is the first company in the test it out. Water that used to be disposed of is now cleaned and stored in tanks to be sent on to local areas in need.      

"What we're doing here today is a very small drop in the bucket, but for us, it's a step forward and represents forward-thinking," said Greg Pruett, Ingomar Sales & Energy Manager.

Botanical Water's Water Harvesting Units are contained to a cargo shipping container for easy transport and connected to the end of Ingomar's tomato paste-making pipes. The units aren't cheap with a price tag of about $1 million each. But Ingemar says the return on investment is about more than money.

"What we're hoping is to expand our footprint here with this technology and hopefully start a trend with facilities around the world where this potential is untapped right now," said Pruett.

The first tanks of water Ingomar has collected are being used by the Central California Irrigation District for groundwater-recharge efforts in disenfranchised communities.

"Our goal ultimately is to positively impact 100 million of the world's most vulnerable people by 2025," said Paule. 

After rolling out in the U.S., the company hopes to take its technology to India next. Botanical Water is also rolling out bottled water, called Aqua Botanical water, to grocery stores in California including Sprouts and Bristol Farms.

For more information about the Botanical Water Foundation and its mission to help deliver clean drinking water to people who need it most visit:

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