The Net Impact conference is as much about great speakers as it is about fortuitous encounters. Today at lunch I had the pleasure of sitting next to Peter Fyrkman of DripTech, a startup company aiming to tackle poverty by providing very cheap, easily scalable drip irrigation technology to small farmers around the world. Ever since I saw Paul Polak speak last year, the apparent ease by which one can bring a family out of poverty to something approaching a middle class lifestyle where education and other opportunities become reachable really struck me. With a small investment in better irrigation, a family can double or triple their agricultural output, feeding themselves and having enough left over to sell at a modest profit. In fact, Paul Polak is on the board of DripTech, inspiring Frykman to refer to the project as “Polak 2.0″.
Frykman told me: “There are 100s of Millions of small farmers suffering from the scarcity that need appropriate drip irrigation to thrive, current commercial products are too large and too expensive for them, it just can’t scale down…”
How does DripTech create a more affordable solution?
By drastically simplifying the product – it’s really just a series simple plastic tubes with holes in them connected to a raised source of water – the product becomes vastly cheaper. Furthermore, the systems can be manufactured locally. Their entire “factory” can fit in an area approximately the size of a shipping container – the only inputs being plastic pellets and power, thus enabling the systems to be widely dispersed and opening the door to micro franchising in the future.
The result is a system that can be sold for as little as $5 to satisfy a family’s basic needs or financed for larger projects covering an acre or more. Ultimately it amounts to a water savings of about 3 times versus traditional flood irrigation, plus the flexibility of being able to grow food during the dry season.
Given the obvious need and the enormity of the market, DripTech looks poised to make a stunning impact while building a great company at the same time. Classic Startup Friday, classic Net Impact.