As tropical storm Erika threatened Florida Friday, a three-man team of inventors moved into their new manufacturing space in Eustis and prepared for a real-world test of one of their creations, thesandless sandbag. At the same time, their other invention, a five-gallon bucket with an integrated handle on the bottom, started hitting Bass Pro Shop shelves.
While Erika wobbled west and fell apart, depriving the inventors a chance to show Central Florida how handy and useful their sandless sandbags are, there was little disappointment from the team. They have plenty of other tasks to keep them busy.
After years of time, trial, error, and capital investment, Global Consumer Innovations, a team made up of brothers Justin and Casey Holder and friend Zach Railey, has started manufacturing two of its patented inventions.
One of its products, a five-gallon bucket with a handle dubbed Bucket Innovations, will be manufactured in Eustis in 25,000 square feet of space rented from Florida Food Products at 2221 W. C.R. 44, a company also known for its innovation. The process of getting carbonation into canned beverages was pioneered there.
"We will create some jobs right here, 10 to 15 new jobs next year," said Justin Holder, who handles marketing for the companies. His brother, Casey, who comes from a construction background and has an engineering mind, is the tinkerer.
Justin Holder said the repaired railroad tracks by Florida Central railroad, was a strong reason why they chose to put the headquarters and manufacturing plant in Eustis. The site already had silos to hold the plastic pellets that will be melted and injected into molds to create the buckets. Rail delivery of freight is about 10 percent cheaper than trucking now, Justin Holder said.
The Holder brothers already have a successful invention under their belts. Casey Holder invented and patented the CanCap, a device that fits over the part of recessed ceiling lights that is up in the attic. It insulates the fixture, saving energy, provides fire protection and a vapor barrier for the recessed lighting.
They started working on perfecting sandless sandbags a few years ago. The goal was to create a bag that would hold flood water away from structures that would be easier than the laborious and time-consuming practice of filling typical sand bags with sand.
"Sandless sandbags have been around for 20 years, said Justin. The bags, full of super absorbent polymers, essentially soaked up water but, much like a water balloon, they wouldn't stay in place. Eventually the British invented some that worked, but the price was prohibitive in the U.S., Justin said.
After trial and error, the brothers came up with a patented design under the name Deluge that works, six layers of fabric sewn together in a special way to hold the polymers and the water in a shape that stays in place. Envision in Wichita, Kan. is manufacturing them now.
Dry, the bags weigh one pound, but after being soaked with five gallons of water, each weighs close to 40 pounds. They can be filled in plastic garbage cans full of water, or put in place dry and then soaked with a hose. The product is biodegradable afterward.
Justin said that they have made the rounds to FEMA and other emergency organizations marketing the bags.
"We have been to directors of FEMA four or five times," said Justin. "Everyone in emergency management say these will cost less in the long run."
But none have placed orders yet for the bags that would retail for about $8 each, but for a considerable discount in bulk.
"Everyone in emergency management says these will cost less in the long run," said Justin. "It's changing a process that is 50 years old or longer that is hard. We are just kind of starting to get there."
With the thought that showing versus telling would be an effective demonstration of the product, as Erika threatened Central Florida, they brought a 15-foot trailer filled with 3,200 Deluge bags, to the Eustis Headquarters, as well as Charleston, S.C. and New York. The trailer is light enough to be pulled by a typical pickup truck, yet the bags, when wet, would equal 162,000 pounds of sand.
The inventors have made quicker market inroads with their patented five-gallon plastic bucket with a built-in handle that allows users to more easily and safely pour heavy liquids out of the buckets.
The simple idea of adding an integrated handle to a plastic bucket ended up being a difficult engineering feat for an injected molded design, said Justin.
Bucket Innovations has three patents on the design that was costly to develop. The first bucket, produced on a 3-D printer, cost $1,800, he said.
In addition to selling to the mass market through Bass Pro Shops, the company also has a deal with a manufacturer of hydraulic fluids needed in heavy equipment to use the design. Because the fluids are extremely heavy and have to be poured into equipment, the company thinks the bucket design itself will net it more sales, said Justin.
Food service use is the next market the company is seeking to tackle with the buckets.
It also is getting traction from paint companies and from the marine industries.
"On boats you are always pouring something into somewhere," said Justin.