Where it started
Jan Vandersypen was born on October 31, 1946. He grew up in Leuven, fascinated by mopeds, cars, rockets and chemistry. He graduated as a candidate Commercial Engineer and as an Industrial Engineer in Chemistry. With this diploma he started working for a Belgian agent for Drew Chemical Corporation in 1970. He was a technical salesman there for six years. His range of products ranged from cleaning products to cosmetics to water treatment. The latter in particular caught his attention. He lived through the 1973 oil crisis. Everyone was talking about oil shortages back then, but he predicted that the day would come when humanity would have to face a much more important challenge: solving water shortages.
In 1976 he began to have doubts about the future of the company he worked for and decided to quit. Then he was faced with a crucial moment: 'Am I going to work for the competition, which I have always competed against, or do I invest my savings in my own business?'
Since March 1, 1976
After much deliberation, Jan decides to take the hard road and start his own company, Aquatreat. He starts with nothing at all except his experience in chemistry and a small improvised lab in his home in Wilrijk. He had one mission: to offer ecological and innovative solutions for water treatment. This was in stark contrast to the polluting and toxic chemicals that were the industry standard in the 1970s. Or as Jan Vandersypen put it “We wanted to reduce toxic and dangerous products, such as: acids, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals that were often used at that time. We wanted to work with environmentally friendly products without pH control, less water consumption and less production of waste water, so that we could save chemicals and water.”
In the first two years he bought chemicals from a rather unreliable Dutch company. Then he started producing chemicals himself. The beginning of Aquatreat's history was tough and tricky. Sales in Belgium went well, but competition was fierce. Jan did not get a foothold in the Netherlands for 10 years, despite the fact that he made efforts one day a week to sell something. It was only when he published an ad in a Dutch newspaper that accidentally ended up in the wrong section that the attention of a Dutch company, which was actually looking for antiques, was aroused. He then also succeeded in Belgium in convincing the larger companies in the ports of Antwerp and Ghent of the added value of his products in combination with his expertise. Aquatreat also started producing for other companies, which accelerated growth.
Landed in Aarschot
Due to the growth of Aquatreat, it was time to expand. The company changed from sole proprietorship to a private limited company in 1983. In 1988 the company moved to Aarschot and a first production building with a laboratory and offices was inaugurated in Aarschot. Jan had largely built that building with his own hands, while at that time a large family, a farm with animals and fruit orchards were waiting for him at home. Extra people were hired for Aquatreat: one person in production, one in the lab and one person for administration.
With the turn of the century in sight and further growth, there was a need for more room to grow further, so that distributors outside Europe could also be supplied. In 1996 a large new warehouse, office and additional laboratory were built. To overcome all the challenges of these expansions, Project 2000 was introduced to the world. From then on, Aquatreat was able to store chemicals in bulk itself, it became an official zero waste water discharger and a glass pyramid was installed for the condensation and evaporation of its own waste water. The great blue pyramid is still a landmark in the region to this day.
The successful implementation of this plan gave Aquatreat a new look with the glass pyramid that has become a landmark in the region since its construction.
Tinne becomes CEO
In 2012 Tinne Vandersypen strengthens the team. She is the daughter of Jan, the 5th of his 6 children. She obtained a master's degree in philosophy and economics at the KULeuven. After her studies, she started working as a management trainee for Van Gansewinkel, where she rose to become site manager of their Kampenhout branch, where she was in charge of a waste and processing company of around 100 employees. After a tour through South America, she decided to change course and join the Aquatreat project, because her interest in ecology, sustainability and chemistry were great, and because this way she could have a greater impact on a changing world.
Opening new building
In 2015, Aquatreat was further expanded with an unprecedented project: a solid wood, passive production building that is only fed with its own green electricity, heated and cooled with geothermal heat pumps, with brand new production facilities that are equipped to produce 10,000 tons and all of this completely off grid, with a smart building management system and the most beautiful product development laboratory in the low countries. In this way, Aquatreat becomes a worldwide example in terms of production and product development. An automatic filling line for cans was also commissioned in 2020 to further expand capacity.
Aquatreat's ambitions are as clear today as they were almost 50 years ago: to be a forerunner in the field of sustainable and environmentally friendly water treatment.