News / USA

Entrepreneur Helps World's Poor While Turning a Profit

Mechanical engineer Peter Frykman's low-cost irrigation system is designed to improve crop yields for small farmers

Peter Frykman has a working model of his Driptech system in his California office.
Peter Frykman has a working model of his Driptech system in his California office.

Multimedia

Audio
Jan Sluizer

When mechanical engineer Peter Frykman created a low-cost drip-irrigation system designed to improve crop yields for small farmers in India and China, he took a significant step toward achieving his dream of becoming a socially-conscious entrepreneur who makes life better for the world’s poor - while also turning a profit.

As a graduate student at Stanford University, Frykman took a course called ‘Enterpreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.’ As part of that class, he went to Ethiopia to look for irrigation solutions for small farms. It didn’t take him long to come up with an answer.

Water scarcity

“Drip irrigation was one of the first things that we saw," says Frykman. "These farmers really needed the benefits of drip irrigation - which are water savings and a huge increase in plant yield, but the solutions that were available to them were too expensive and too complicated.”

Peter Frykman, founder of Driptech, a self-described for-profit, social-impact company which produces a drip irrigation system designed to help the small farmers.
Peter Frykman, founder of Driptech, a self-described for-profit, social-impact company which produces a drip irrigation system designed to help the small farmers.

Frykman returned to Stanford wanting to find a solution. He knew that 90 percent of the world’s farmers grow their crops on two hectares or less and water scarcity is a big problem. How the available water was used only made the problem worse.

“What many people don’t realize is that over 50 percent of our fresh water is used for agriculture," he says. "And in some places, like India and China, it can be as high as 90 percent. And that means that it’s basically pumped to the field and just dumped on the field in flood irrigation.”  

Finding a solution

Frykman believed that with efficient irrigation, small-plot farmers could cut their water use while boosting crop output.

So, in 2008, he founded Driptech, a for-profit, social-impact company that produces an inexpensive drip irrigation system. Like large-scale systems, Frykman’s model uses tubing with small holes which delivers water directly to the roots of the plants. The main difference is in how the water is stored and forced into the tubes.

“Most small-plot farmers don’t have high-pressure pumps so our system runs off of gravity pressure" says Frykman. "We can actually run it off of just an elevated tank of water, so it scales down to their needs.”

Sarah Huber, Driptech’s director of business development, just returned from a three-week visit to India and China, the company’s primary markets. She says it’s clear that the irrigation system is having an impact on farmers and the demand for it growing rapidly.

Sarah Huber works with farmers in India who are using the Driptech system.
Sarah Huber works with farmers in India who are using the Driptech system.

Cost effective

“We’ve seen, with our farmers in China, income increase around 50 percent which makes a dramatic difference in their lifestyle," says Huber, "and their ability to pursue other employment opportunities, send their kids to school, get proper health care and we’ve seen some very big impacts there and there’s so many people in China who need this technology.”

According to Huber, Driptech’s system gives small farmers in India a steady income stream because they no longer have to depend on the monsoons for water and can grow year-round, even during the dry season

Driptech sells its product through local partners - agriculture companies or, in China, the government. Its most popular system in India costs about $150 dollars per quarter-hectare.

Frykman says it pays for itself within six months.

Making a difference

The entrepreneur is proud that Driptech has found a way to manufacture its irrigation system in any country where small farmers can use it.

Southern Indian farmers running the Driptech irrigation system
Southern Indian farmers running the Driptech irrigation system

“We can put everything we need for an entire drip irrigation factory into a shipping container, put it anywhere in the world for about $50,000 and that factory would produce enough drip irrigation for thousands of farms per year.”

From a business perspective, Driptech’s greatest accomplishment is developing a low-cost, small-scale irrigation system with few parts, and easy installation. But Frykman believes his company’s greatest success lies in the number of individual farmers whose lives have been improved.

“To sell a product to a farmer who makes a couple dollars a day it has to be perfect," he says. "And the challenge of designing and delivering that type of product is something that’s really exciting and to see that be successful and see that gain momentum is the most exciting thing for me.”

The next step for Frykman’s company is to increase the size of its local team, hire more partners in China and India, explore new markets, and scale up manufacturing to meet growing world-wide demand.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid