Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Driptech at Agriculture 2.0

Hello Driptech friends, I’m Sarah, and this is my first blog post as Driptech’s Director of Business Development. Following three weeks in India meeting with local partners, I flew to New York to present at the Agriculture 2.0 conference. This event is hosted by New Seed Advisors several times a year to promote investment in agricultural technologies that are socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable. I’d say that fits us to a ‘T’.
To start off the day, investors in the sustainable agriculture space, including Omnivore, Acumen, and Root Capital, discussed their investment philosophy and portfolios. Following this, we heard from investment banks, the US government, the IFC, the academic community, and heavy hitters in the agriculture space like Coca-Cola and John Deere – all of whom have a stake in sustainable agriculture. I was personally most fascinated by the work of AgDevCo – a non-profit that takes the early stage risk of setting up sustainable agriculture projects in Africa and then hands them over for private sector investment.

After that it was time to share Driptech’s exciting success so far on the Investment Opportunities panel, where I discussed our cutting edge technical development, rapidly growing manufacturing capabilities, and distribution through strong local partners. I also got to share some news fresh from the field – some of our farmers are seeing their crops go for 2x the price per kilogram they sold for before due to dramatically higher quality. (Below, learning about this in Hubli, India.)

Driptech’s simple but powerful mission seemed to resonate deeply with all kinds of people, from industry to government to bloggers. Additionally, as one participant pointed out, my outfit had ended up matching Driptech’s logo, making for a particularly striking presentation. A subconscious sign of innate devotion? All I can say is that my lifelong favorite color is green, and, having spent six years in New York, I also own a lot of black.

Finally, I’d like to share a couple of great statistics that reinforced for me the urgency of Driptech’s mission:
  1. From Columbia University - the world’s population is expected to increase by 3 billion people by 2050, but 80% of all farmland in the world is already being cultivated
  2. From the USDA - remaining cultivable land is particularly scarce in Asia – only 15 million hectares remain versus 123 million in Latin America and over 200 million in Africa

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lights, Camera, Irrigation

We were excited to have the producer and camera crew of the Korean Broadcasting System’s "Science Café " visit Driptech in Mountain View recently to shoot footage for an upcoming episode of the weekly one hour television documentary.
Science Café’s mission is to make practical science issues fun and accessible. To illustrate how technology can be applied to help people in the developing world, the KBS crew also visited Driptech advisor Paul Polak, National Geographic Museum’s “Design for the other 90%” exhibit, The Stanford University Institute of Design , the San Francisco chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and companies such as Vestergaard Frandsen.
Members of our Mountain View team demonstrated the Driptech system and enthusiastically provided on camera interviews.
Peter awoke ridiculously early in Beijing in order to make a guest appearance via Skype from our new office there.
The KBS crew pointed out that although drip irrigation itself may not be high tech, everything supporting the business of bringing it to the small-plot farmers of the world is. We look forward to seeing the show when it’s first aired later this year. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Interviews at the End of the Road

Earlier this summer, Driptech colleagues and I spent a month crisscrossing our way around northern and western India, conducting interviews with farmers who had been shown a demonstration of our affordable irrigation solution. Our goal was to learn more about the rural environment in India and to gauge reactions to our product.

The farmers made for enthusiastic interview subjects, offering outspoken opinions alongside piping hot milk tea. Never mind that when the temperature is above 100 F, you’re not in the mood for hot tea; it was a great time, and we enjoyed the opportunity to meet our potential customers and learn more about their lives.

We learned more about the difficulties that farmers in Rajasthan face with water shortages and the hot season, we heard about family members who had left for the cities to look for more opportunity, we heard about the time spent (wasted?) on making mud irrigation channels to move water through the fields in Karnataka, we heard about the material and technological developments that are slowly filtering down from the cities to towns and then on to the villages. In the end, we came away with a much better understanding of our potential customers that will only allow us to serve them better.