Australia's Gunbarrel Highway, like much of the US West Coast, is often very dry.

Australia's Gunbarrel Highway, like much of the US West Coast, is often very dry.

Waste not, want not

Engineering alumni TOM WOOD, ME '06 and ANDREW HERMANN, BComm '06, BE (Hons) '06 have are set to help the drought-ridden US west coast with their cutting-edge technology. AARON WALKER reports.

It is said that opportunity is often born of crisis, and never has that been more evident than for Tom Wood and Andrew Hermann.

The two ANU engineering alumni are on the brink of taking the US by storm with their innovative start-up company Nexus eWater.

Hermann is a born-and-bred Canberran who has enjoyed tinkering with electronics since primary school.

"From quite a young age I was being told I should be an engineer, I never really questioned it," he recalls.

That early interest led to ANU, where he took up an engineering degree.

In his last year of study, Hermann took on part-time work at Perpetual Water - a Canberra-based company that developed greywater treatment systems.

"It was 2004 and they were in their very early days, I negotiated an arrangement where I could do my Honours project from within the company," he says.

Two years later, the company took on more students.

One of those was Wood, a young Canadian who had moved across the globe to study engineering at ANU.

"I picked ANU because of its international reputation. It has a really interesting engineering program very different from what everyone else is doing," he says.

Both were happy at Perpetual Water and enjoyed having work that allowed them to build on the skills they had developed at ANU, but in 2007 the Global Financial Crisis emerged and it hit hard for their employer.

In 2008, the Perpetual Water board put the company into administration and the development team was made redundant. 

Suddenly finding themselves out of work, and with the job market scarce, the two young engineers decided to go into business for themselves.