Petaluma company makes products that save water
The four-year drought gripping the western United States is helping to propel record growth for HydroPoint Data Systems, a Petaluma-based company with a high-tech irrigation product designed to reduce over-watering.
Using sophisticated modeling that determines weather and water needs on a site-specific basis, the company’s controllers integrate with existing irrigation systems to turn on the tap automatically as conditions demand. Users can monitor and control their system through a computer or mobile device, making it easy to tweak irrigation and identify leaks, said CEO Chris Spain.
The combination adds up to a compelling sell for managers of parks, schools, corporate campuses and other water-hungry sites, reducing waste by up to 95 percent while making it easier to monitor and adjust overall use, he said.
“This has been our biggest growth year ever,” said Spain, with 2015 expected to exceed the prior year’s 20 percent increase in revenue.
Founded in 2002, the privately held HydroPoint employs 51 workers off of Corporate Circle in Petaluma and two at a research office in Utah. Local operations include final assembly for controllers, customer service, sales and marketing, hardware engineering and software engineering, Spain said.
Unlike competitors who rely on small weather stations located at the site of irrigation, HydroPoint’s WeatherTRAK product line uses data from a network of state-maintained weather stations to model the conditions at a particular site. The approach has proven to rival the accuracy of on-site monitoring at a lower cost for consumers, with most systems paying for themselves through savings in 18 to 24 months, Spain said.
The Environmental Protection Agency recognized HydroPoint as manufacturer of the year in its Watersense program in 2014, making it the first “smart irrigation” company to win the award.
“We came in it with no legacy technology,” which allowed the company to be nimble, Spain said.“We do all of the heavy lifting in the cloud.”
The product is aimed at large corporate and municipal customers, and the City of Petaluma and Petaluma City Schools were some of HydroPoint’s earliest customers.
“What it does for one is give you a computer-based way of controlling irrigation clocks without having to go to every site,” said Julia St. John, who oversees a small landscaping team for 17 campuses as director of maintenance and operations for Petaluma City Schools. “That’s one of the biggest benefits, aside from saving water.”
Other customers include Wal-Mart, Kaiser Permanente and Caltrans, with 35,000 controllers in use across 50 cities, Spain said.
Looking ahead, Spain cited compliance with emerging water use regulations in California and elsewhere as a source of growth for HydroPoint. The company added tools to monitor compliance with state and local guidelines in May last year.
“We’re getting calls all the time from our customers asking, ‘Can you tell if I’m in compliance?’,” he said.
HydroPoint is also developing a product to monitor indoor water use, which it expects to launch later this year, he said.
“Once we’re able to do both, we’ll be able to tell people very accurately what they can save,” he said.
(Contact Eric Gneckow at firstname.lastname@example.org.)