DripTech Offers Dirt Cheap, Scalable Irrigation for Developing World

startup friday

drip-tech-logoThe 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?

maniBy 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.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

2 responses

  1. can’t the pellets be made out of something other than plastic? nut shell resin? (they use it for binding recycled paper into a impervious counter material)…or maybe a corn product that behaves like plastic…

  2. Since irrigation water use is such a large issue regarding the amount of water we use for irrigation why not start there in designing and using a better product? http://www.IrrigationThatMakesSense.org is a non profit group trying to battle our national water issues by providing funding and installation of green irrigation products. They have a irrigation product that conserves up to 80% of water use after two years. Their product is installed sub-surface therefore you never see it watering. It makes the plants stronger, uses less fertilizer along with water and no over spray onto sidewalks and roads. The cost to install their underground irrigation product is comparable to overhead sprinklers but this is the green irrigation choice.

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