This Minnesota hardware startup is changing the way we water the world

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irrigreenThe numbers are stark, to say the least. According to the EPA, landscape irrigation accounts for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.

What’s most alarming is that an estimated 50 percent of that water is wasted, and when you look at a standard sprinkler system it’s not hard to see why. The prominent existing method for watering lawns involves several sprinklers spraying in rigid circles, and as a result there’s a lot of overlap, runoff and yet uncovered spots.

It’s a big problem seeking a solution, and Gary Klinefelter believes he has designed one.

Klinefelter is the founder and CEO of IrriGreen, a local hardware startup introducing a digital aspect to the irrigation process. The company manufactures sprinkler heads that include an electronic circuit board in addition the the usual motor components.

This allows the spray patterns to be contoured to the specific shape of a piece of land. A patent pending multi-stream nozzle delivers the water, leading to uniform distribution that isn’t achieved by most models on the market.  It’s more than a smart sprinkler, Klinefelter believes, which is why he calls his product the “Genius sprinkler.”

Klinefelter’s background is in digital printing, and he says the idea for IrriGreen spawned from frustrations with the inefficiencies of watering his own lawn.

“Knowing that I could do something where I could put stuff exactly on a page made me wonder, how could I do that on a lawn?”

Klinefelter says that in the past, the technology wasn’t available to make this a viable and cost-effective solution, but now the timing is right and the need is clear.

IrriGreen launched about four years ago, and has raised close to $1 million in capital through friends, family and angel investors. The product began selling commercially last year and they moved about 100 units. This year, Klinefelter says the company is positioned to sell upward of 1,000, with a revenue goal of $500,000 to $750,000.

They have a five-year plan that would establish them as a $60 million company. In order to make that happen, IrriGreen needs to continue to push sales and begin to expand nationally. The company must also work to differentiate itself from competing innovators in the industry, such as Innogation and AccuRain.

Klinefelter feels his offering is technically superior to the seemingly similar alternatives.

“I don’t know of any other sprinklers in the ground that have electronics inside,” he says.

While Irrigreen’s system carries a higher cost per head, total cost of ownership is less than that of a traditional sprinkler system when factoring the labor savings of applying computing power to a largely manual process (less heads to install). Also, Irrigreen greatly reduces the underground petroleum based piping needed for a conventional system by about 75%.  Despite that, Marketing Director Ray Lamovec believes that the improved lawn coverage and resulting economics of water speaks for itself.

“Property owners simply can’t afford to waste water anymore,” he says, convincingly.

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