Mohammad Farghaly: A Pioneer of Water Desalination in The Middle East

Advanced Watertek is considered an industry leader when it comes to water treatment processing. Learn more about the man behind the company.

Advanced Watertek is considered an industry leader when it comes to water treatment processing. Beginning its operations in Perth, Australia, it has now expanded in several continents with its international offices located in Oman, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Known for its high quality products and services in the industry, the company takes pride in being a leading membrane based water treatment solutions provider and supplier. 

In this special cover story, get to know Mohammad Farghaly and how he expanded his water desalination business in the UAE. Learn more about how he manages his company and what he thinks will play a crucial role in forming the future of the industry. 

Those who meet Mohammad Farghaly will quickly learn that he will not beat around the bush on any matter. He’s a straight shooter. With over 30 years since he started his water desalination business Advanced Watertek, he knows every trick in the book. With Farghaly, or MF as his employees call him, you always know exactly where you stand because he tells it as it is.

When MF came to the UAE from Australia in 1984, there was a general shortage of fresh water in the region. Seawater desalination wasn’t enough. The country was using brackish water and desalinated seawater as its main source of fresh water. The technology was very young at the
time as the 1980s was the very start of reverse osmosis desalination. MF saw an opportunity to supply industries, various government bodies, farms, hospitals and private individuals with high quality reverse osmosis systems. A pioneer in the UAE, he sold his first system to a farm in Madam, Sharjah in 1984, a system that is still running to this day.

When quizzed about Advanced Watertek’s past achievements, MF is modest and measured in
his answer, insisting that he doesn’t wish to “bore people with history.” Instead, he wants to focus on recent successes and ventures into new applications of membrane technology.

For instance, Advanced Watertek was among the first in the region to remove Sulphate from seawater for water injection into oil wells to recover marginal oil. The company has done cooling tower jobs where they took tertiary water that has been treated and passed it through Ultrafiltration and RO, using it to cool large shopping centers in an environmentally friendly way. They have also done various, highly complex RO applications for major oil service providers in the region.

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“These are what I would consider innovations and stepping out of our comfort zone,” MF said. “We still do a lot of seawater desalination of course, which is our bread and butter.”  Above all, MF is obsessed with enhancing the quality of Advanced Watertek’s systems, often at the expense of the company’s profits. Ever since he began his venture, he has maintained a sharp focus on continuous improvements. The quality of his machines is one area of his business where he refuses to compromise.

“I believe that whatever you do in life, you should do it well, or you don’t do it at all,” he said. “That’s a very simple principle. I think it has proven dead right throughout my life.” MF strives to achieve a level of differentiation, akin to world-class brands like Apple and Porsche; brands that he believes set themselves apart by meeting and exceeding customer expectations in terms of quality and performance.

When Advanced Watertek builds a system, it sources the best components available worldwide. If MF hears of a new component that can enhance the quality of his machines, he will immediately travel to the manufacturer’s factory to satisfy himself with its quality. As far as workmanship, MF insists that the company tries to keep well above the industry’s best practices.

In addition to creating a high quality system, Advanced Watertek prides itself on its exemplary after-sales service. The company never sells a machine without commissioning it themselves, no matter where it is in the world.

“We are very particular about providing absolutely the best after-sales service irrespective of where in the world,” MF said. “One of our significant clients has started with us with a single maintenance contract and now they have entrusted us with two more very important contracts.”

Looking to the future, Advanced Watertek plans to continue to focus on membrane technology. MF intends to use innovations in membranes to open various sectors like they have done in the past with brackish water, then seawater, then Ultrafiltration and Nanofiltration and now onto the next. The future of the industry, as MF sees it, is more into water recycling than water desalination. Water recycling is much cheaper to produce than seawater desalination.

However, seawater desalination will always remain the staple of Advanced Watertek. Geographically, the company operates in the areas it wants to cover including the GCC, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. That said, nowhere is out of bounds as Advanced Watertek has installations far from their headquarters in countries like Brazil and Norway.

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In analyzing the health of the water desalination industry as a whole, MF believes that the most salient trend in the industry is its ferocious growth over the past 30 years.

“In the 1990s, RO desalination was considered a power hungry technology,” he said. “However, over the last two decades, major advances in energy recovery have drastically reduced power consumption, rendering the technology far more economical.”

Another trend that MF pointed out was the wider applications for RO. When he started out, it was fundamentally for drinking. But now it is used in various innovative applications, be it for a dialysis machine in hospital, the electronics industry, the pharmaceutical industry. MF thinks it is a trend occurring worldwide.

“I feel it is a growing technology that has spread across various parts of our life,” MF said. “Even in a city like Perth, Australia, we used to use only dam and bore well water to supply the whole city. Today, I believe well over 40% of Perth water supply is through RO desalination from the sea.”

While MF is acutely aware of what others are doing in the industry, he is more concerned with how his company handles things internally. He wants to make sure that everyone, from the salesmen, to the technician, to the draughtsman, to the accountant, understands that every decision made by the company should take the customer’s interest into account.

“I try to ask myself what would the customer want?” MF said. “What would the customer expect of me? And I act accordingly. As a company, I would like to think that we always put the customer first. We put their interests ahead of ours. As I believe in doing the right thing by the customer, over the long term, it is bound to pay back.”

The high level of trust between Advanced Watertek and their recurring clients is a testimony to this fact.

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Mohammad Farghaly: A Pioneer of Water Desalination in The Middle East

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