Sunday, October 11, 2009

A good time was had by all

On behalf of the entire Driptech team I wanted to say thanks to everyone who made it out to our booth at the West Coast Green event last week. The organizers also deserve a round of applause, especially Diane Loviglio the Innovation Pipeline coordinator (above with the Driptech team).

Although I got tired of disappointing all the people who wanted to buy our system for their own backyards, the conference was overall very helpful in publicizing and connecting with potential investors. It's a good sign that people are thinking about water conservation, and if we weren't already shipping every roll of tubing we can make to China, I'd be happy to provide systems locally. After all, the first location we got it working was in my back yard in Palo Alto, and we've been benefiting all summer from fresh tomatoes and peppers. Some of you will remember the mountains of onions before that.

I'm also pretty sure that we're the only company importing materials from India to manufacture in Palo Alto and re-export to China :) Obviously we are looking forward to eventually transitioning our manufacturing overseas to the local markets. This will help support the local economies while cutting out transportation costs and headaches.

In the meantime we'll keep churning out low cost drip irrigation in our Palo Alto facility. And for all you contractors, landscape architects, and rain water collection enthusiasts, I'll try to see if we can hustle some product out the back door for your gardens.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What do you call this? Where can I buy one? Where can I buy 100 of them? Part II

This week, we’ve been talking plastics—meeting with producers of pipes, filters, takeoffs, and everything else we need to connect our drip irrigation. It’s a great adventure, tracking the entire chain, from seeing products in the greenhouse, to meeting the retailers who sell to farmers, to finding the actual manufacturers and visiting their factories to see the irrigation components being made. I came to China with my bags full of drip tape; now I’m returning with bags full of samples.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Our first Chinese installations: the greenhouses of Lingqiu

This is Gung Gin, the owner of greenhouse #1 in Qing Ni Jian, a small town near Lingqiu. He and his wife, Liu Guipin, are raising onions inside their greenhouse this summer, as well as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers outside. They have a small pen for three pigs, and soon they’ll be harvesting their summer crop of millet and corn. In many ways, they’re typical of the farmers we’ll be working with in Lingqiu: they have a diversified farm, raising animals, growing grains in their larger fields, and raising vegetables on a much smaller piece of land. Like most American farmers, Gung Gin and Liu Guipin are in their late 50s; their children have grown up and moved away, and these two, along with two hired workers who are also in their fifties, do all the work to keep their farm running.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible, thanks in large part to some technologies that weren’t available when Gung Gin and Liu Guipin first started working on their families’ farms: they can buy improved seed varieties and inorganic fertilizers in town, and get them delivered by truck to their farm. They use a walk-behind rototiller to till up their greenhouse and vegetable fields. And now, they’re using drip irrigation.
The family greenhouse is 70 meters long and about 8 meters wide; without drip irrigation, it takes three hours to water all the rows. All the greenhouses are hooked up to the same water supply, so if the neighbors are watering at the same time, the pressure drops and it takes even longer. Some commercial drip irrigation won’t work with such variable pressure, but ours is designed to work best with low pressure and low volume. So far, it’s working well in Gung Gin’s Greenhouse #1 and the other seven greenhouses in the row; come November, we’ll be installing systems in 200 greenhouses in this region.