By Loralee Stevens, Special to the Business Journal
PETALUMA — Winning in the environment category of Manufacturing Awards is HydroPoint Data Systems Inc., maker of WeatherTRAK, a smart irrigation system.
Yet HydroPoint is more than a manufacturing company, as CEO Chris Spain pointed out.
Its systems include wireless tech, software, high performance computer processing and analytics, mobile and cloud computing, and service is a huge component in the company’s success.
“Our technology beats everything out there when it comes to conserving water and saving money, but if we don’t have people on the spot – first to persuade customers to change their ways and then to support them as they do – we’d have gotten nowhere,” said Mr. Spain.
And HydoPoint has gotten very far since it was founded 10 years ago. Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Apple, Coca Cola and PG&E are among its customers, along with hotel chains, universities, developers of housing divisions and more than 50 cities and municipal water districts.
HydroPoint’s patented technology includes daily calculations of high resolution site-specific weather data pulled from satellites, aircraft data, radar, RF-enabled weather balloons, river gauges, ocean buoy and surface stations and weather services all over the globe — some eight million data points a day – to calculate when and how much to irrigate an individual piece of property with no waste or runoff.
In addition to growing its revenues, by 74 percent during the past three years, and its customer base, adding 150 sites in May alone, the company is growing up.
“We struggled for a long time, doing all our own installations without contractor partners. But when we began to win the big customers they were willing to work with us,” said Mr. Spain.
More partnerships are in the works, allowing HydroPoint to increase its rate of growth, he said.
Recently the company partnered with Johnson Controls, Honeywell and Siemens to offer municipalities a performance-guaranteed method to finance large-scale irrigation systems.
HydroPoint has also improved its trouble-shooting systems so that customers can be alerted on their mobile devices if, say, a sprinkler head is damaged.
Contractor partners do most of the heavy-duty installation and maintenance now, so the company’s staff is relatively small, at 50 employees.
“Our business plan isn’t perfect yet – we still do far too much – but it’s improving,” said Mr. Spain.
Meanwhile, demand for the WeatherTRAK technology is growing as people become aware of the dangers of runoff. President Obama’s initiative to stop runoff from entering the badly polluted Chesapeake Bay is expected to be widely adapted across the U.S.
And water rates continue to rise.
“It was only a matter of time until those of our customers who own or manage large facilities asked us to come indoors,” said Mr. Spain.
“We’re working now on a comprehensive water management system to extend our resource and cost-saving technology to cover both inside and out.”
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