Bright sparks

Liliana Engelhardt | VOLUME 29, ISSUE 1
Aqualuma’s Carl (middle) and Grant (right) Amor receiving the Mayor’s Innovation GC Award at the Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards in December 2013.
This Gold Coast business takes the world by storm with its award-winning LED lighting systems.

Stroll along a marina anywhere in the world of an evening and chances are you’ll spot a number of craft spectacularly lit up with underwater lighting. And given the success of Gold Coast-based business Aqualuma, it’s likely it supplied the LED lighting that’s so decoratively illuminating them.

Founded by brothers and co-directors Carl and Grant Amor in 2005, it’s astonishing how this business has flourished in just nine years.

It all began when the brothers, both passionate boaties with a penchant for restoring classic cars, weren’t able to source an underwater lighting system suited to Belle Amor, their Southern Cross 53 motor yacht. Instead, they turned to manufacturing their own LED lighting system.

Evidently, the idea was a good one, as their worldwide success seems to confirm.

“We’re arguably in the top three in the world as far as underwater lights go,” says Carl. “Whether you place us 1, 2 or 3 would depend on which one of our competitors you were talking to, but Aqualuma is right at the top.”

Behind the success of the lighting systems lies Aqualuma’s LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology, now in its third generation. What sets these products apart on the market is a one-piece housing that doesn’t require any lenses or seals. And the through-hull range, responsible for those colourful lighting displays under the waterline, can be upgraded to Aqualuma’s newer generation LED lights from inside the boat, without needing to change the housing or haul the boat out of the water. Add to that the submersible range for lighting on pontoons, marinas and other underwater installations, plus various solutions for exterior and pathway lighting, and Aqualuma can illuminate anything from a PWC to a marina complex in brilliant white, blue, or green.

“We have a worldwide patent on our through-hull housing; it’s the only patented housing in the world,” says Carl. “During the initial installation, when the housing is put into place, the boat has to be out of the water; after that, it’s all done internally. It’s very simple, and generation two and three can be installed in the original generation-one housing.”

All R & D and manufacturing is carried out in-house from “concept to completion”, with Grant heading the development team. “We design specifically for whatever market we decide we need to be in, taking customer feedback into account, and then we design a product to suit. That’s basically from sitting around having a beer saying: ‘we should do this next’, to actually making it happen,” says Carl.

Aqualuma is the third business the Amor bothers have founded together, having operated a panel beating business for 18 years before running a marine upholstery business for five. With Aqualuma rapidly advancing in the Australian market soon after launching (according to Carl, Aqualuma supplies roughly 98 per cent of the Aussie market), the duo looked to foreign shores to expand. The overwhelming response they received at their first US display during the 2006 Miami International Boat Show indicated the potential of that market, which they have taken by storm.

Carl attributes Aqualuma’s success in the US, in part, to the lack of a comparable product at the time, but also to the marketing strategy they employed. During the GFC, at a time when many businesses were reserving their funds, they invested.

“We dealt with it a little differently to everybody else. Prior to the GFC, we were in a very good position as we had cash in the bank, which we had put away for a rainy day … and of course it poured,” says Carl. “We used that money to sponsor the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show; we tipped in money when many others were haemorrhaging. None of our competitors were advertising or they were pulling back, so we saturated the market. It didn’t pay off straight away – we didn’t expect it to. It was a long-term plan; we wanted to make sure that everybody who went to a boat show in America knew who Aqualuma was by the end of the season.”

Evidently, the gamble paid off, with the business now boasting a “reasonable market-share” in the US and forming Aqualuma LLC, a wholly owned and operated business, mid-2011 in Deerfield Beach, Florida. And with the support of European, Asian, New Zealand and UAE distributors. Aqualuma now exports to more than 50 countries.

Meanwhile, at home in Australia, the Amor brothers have been busy with a new venture, having recently launched into the commercial and industrial lighting arena. As with the marine LED lighting systems, Aqualuma designs and manufactures the LED high bay and down lights at its Gold Coast premises to the exacting standards its clients demand. While LED lighting is generally considered the most energy-efficient lighting source currently available, Aqualuma claims to produce the world’s most efficient LED high bay lights for commercial buildings, saying they reduce carbon emissions and lower power consumption by as much as 75 per cent.

As this award-winning business gallops ahead, the Amor brothers still find time for their other passion – restoring and collecting classic cars. Although 2013 was the first year they hadn’t actually restored one (it was an exceptionally busy year, culminating in the Mayor’s Innovation GC Award at the Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards in December) things are looking promising for 2014.

“We will commence building our new factory in the first quarter of 2014 and we hope to be able to start working on restoring some cars after this is complete,” says Carl. “But right now we’re so busy and cramped for space it’s just impossible.”

Aussie-made Aqualuma products are proudly designed and manufactured in Helensvale, Queensland. Contact: Aqualuma LED Lighting, tel: (07) 5519 4555. Web: