LODI, Calif. — Responding to a global need for sustainable water use that’s driven by more frequent droughts and water scarcity, Uri Shani sought ways to change how farmers irrigate their fields.
One of Israel’s top water experts, and formerly its water commissioner, Shani invented a gravity-powered micro irrigation system that would be economical and reduce water use by 60% when compared to traditional flood irrigation.
It requires no pumps or filters and can use existing flood infrastructure with minor modifications and its operational costs are minimal, Shani said.
“It’s similar to how a hanging intravenous drip in a hospital delivers fluids to a patient’s vein without the aid of pumps,” Shani explained. “N-Drip’s patented dripper is structured specially to regulate water flow as well as overcome suspended particles without the need to use filters.”
Israel is famous for pioneering water technology systems, ranging from conventional drip irrigation to desalination plants that provide alternative sources of fresh water from the sea. It’s also a leader in reusing water.
Shani recognized the need of farmers in Israel and across the U.S. that face water shortages and need affordable solutions that didn’t call for big infrastructure investments.
Aside from Israel, the company has a 10-acre demonstration plot in a tomato field in Lodi, Calif., where a system was installed this May.
The system is also operating on three farms in Arizona for a mix of crops including alfalfa, melons and chickpeas, and in a cotton field in Texas.
Shani said it can be scaled up for a variety of crops and used anywhere that flood irrigation is in place.
“It works with the exact topography of the field to deliver consistent energy and water flow to the entire field, delivering 80 to 95% irrigation efficiency,” he said.
He estimated typical conversion costs from flood irrigation would range from $200 to $300 per acre for infrastructure.
The U.K.-based Financial Times gave N-Drip a “transformation business award” this June, selecting it from among 270 global applicants for its ability to improve yield while using less water and at lower costs.
Shani and his team have expanded to Australia and South Africa in the last year, but will focus on reaching more farmers in the U.S.
“We have very strong belief in the American farmer, and the need for our solution. Therefore, we are focusing our company’s efforts in the U.S., establishing a local presence and increasing activity,” he said.