Organica Water, a wastewater treatment plant company based in Budapest, Hungary, now has an American headquarters to go with its American CEO. The company, a global operation that has built innovative wastewater treatment plants in Europe and Asia, recently opened a corporate headquarters on Princeton-Hightstown Road, where the CEO, Ari Raivetz, leads a staff of eight.
Raivetz has been CEO of the company since 2011 and until late last year oversaw its Budapest headquarters.
Raivetz came from a finance background. He grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where his father was a school superintendent and his mother was a guidance counselor. He earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the George Washington University and an MBA from Yale before going to work in the finance industry. He worked at several Wall Street jobs including as an analyst at Bank of America before joining RNK Capital, a private equity firm that specializes in environmentally sustainable investing. It was there he encountered Organica Water and his career took a turn.
Raivetz, who was in charge of the company’s water investments, oversaw investments in Organica and eventually became a member of its board of directors in 2008. Three years later he was managing the company as CEO.
Organica is known for designing unique wastewater treatment plants that look more like greenhouses than traditional sewage facilities. Dirty water is pumped into the plant, where it is processed through a series of tanks. Atop the tanks, in the greenhouse part of the facility, are plants with roots hanging down into the water. Microorganisms that live on the plant roots break down the pollutants until the water is clean at the very end.
The inside of the greenhouses are complex ecosystems with snails, worms, and many kinds of plants. The company claims that its approach can treat wastewater up to a very high quality with low energy consumption and low operating costs. The plants also take up very little real estate compared to other kinds of wastewater treatment.
Founded in 1998 by engineers Attila Bodnar and Ishvan Kenyeres to serve the Hungarian market, the company has since become international. More than 72 plants around the world have been built or are under construction using Organica’s plans. As the company has grown, up to about 100 employees now, its focus has changed. Now, rather than building the plants itself, Organica is focused on selling software and designs so that whoever wants to build a plant to Organica specifications can do so.
“We’ve been doing the same designs over and over again,” Raivetz explained. “If you walk into a Starbucks in China or France, or the U.S., or Kuala Lampur, it’s all the same. It looks the same, it has the same kitchen, and the same standard design. That’s what we are trying to do for these wastewater reclamation facilities.”
The American headquarters of Organica is focused on selling the code, developed in-house, and engineering and technical consulting services to regulators, utilities, industries, or anyone who wants to build an Organica plant.
Raivetz says the company decided to locate in Princeton in order to attract the sales and programming talent it would need. However, he is not planning to build Organica plants in the United States. “I would love to, but there is such a big bureaucracy here,” he says. “It’s a risk-averse sector, so that makes it challenging when you’re doing something in a bit of a different way. We are going to spend our resources in China, Indonesia, Brazil, and France, because there aren’t so many barriers to innovating in the market. But we would absolutely love to break in here.”
Raivetz says one advantage of Organica plants is that they can be located in highly populated areas close to where the sewage is generated. The small, inoffensive, greenhouse-like structure of an Organica plant is much more tolerable as a neighbor than the large, smelly vats of the traditional wastewater treatment plant.
Having a plant close to a population center means it’s easy to re-use the wastewater for agriculture, industrial cooling, or some other application rather than building a gigantic network of pipes to bring it back to civilization.
Now that he’s back in the United States, Raivetz says he’d like his company to have a local impact. “We’d love to do something in the Princeton area,” he says.
Organica Water, 61 Princeton-Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction 08550; www.organicawater.com.