PowWow Energy, an affordable SaaS solution to improve irrigation, assists farms to produce more food with less water and energy

Our decision support tool helps farms increase crop yield with 10% less water inputs and 20% less energy inputs, with no hardware to install

Photo of MCCALLUM Sophie
11 23

Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

PowWow Energy

Year founded

2013

Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $1mil - $5mil

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 100 - 250

Organization type

  • For-profit

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development
  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • United States of America

Headquarters location: City

San Mateo, California

Location(s) of impact

USA: Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Davis, Arbuckle, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Salinas

Website

Https://www.powwowenergy.com

Facebook URL

@powwowenergy

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Farms need to produce more food with fewer inputs. Fresh water reserves are depleted at an alarming rate due to climate change, while the growing population is pressuring farmers to grow more food. 69% of freshwater is committed to agriculture, and by 2050 the global agriculture water demand will increase by 19%. However, farms are reluctant to invest in water measurement tools due to their low margins. Growers need a solution that does not require a large upfront investment but can improve water use and energy costs.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We developed a simple tool to monitor water usage via existing power meters attached to pumps, called Pump Monitor™. We use patented algorithms to generate daily water records and alert growers of any pump problem, resulting in both water and energy savings. By using third party data (utility companies, satellites already in place), no new hardware is required, making this solution accessible to all including small farms with limited revenue. Once PowWow becomes the software dashboard at the farm office and the alert system in the field, it identifies where the farms can get more crop yield per unit of water using historical aerial images and weather data, providing a full irrigation service called Irrigation Advisor™. PowWow is available via web or mobile phone. Farmers automatically receive text alerts and irrigation schedules. This makes the solution accessible to all including in developing countries, where 15% of populations use internet but over 60% have access to mobile phones.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

PowWow is being deployed by almond growers on over 20,000 acres, resulting in 8,000 acre-feet of water saved and 10,000 MWh of energy saved.

PowWow’s platform is proven following 3 years of trials in collaboration with UC Davis (agronomy) and UC Santa Barbara (environmental) across multiple crops and 4,000 acres. At the end of the trials, it was shown that it can save 10% of water use and 20% of energy use (and GHG emissions as a result) for the same crop yield. Squeezing more crop out of every drop of irrigation could save enough water to supply between 1 million and 4 million homes annually according to LA Times.

Without water, there is no crop, and farm land loses its value. Small or mid size farmers do not always make ends meet. In particular during years of lower rainfalls, generating enough revenue to sustain themselves can prove very difficult. PowWow allows smaller farms to be competitive and tune irrigation insights to improve the quality of their produce.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

PowWow completed a Seed Round of $1.4M from angel investors and $1.6M from the CEC grant in 2015. The public-private collaboration allowed to prove the platform and deploy it at pilot farms. PowWow generated $500K in revenue in 2017 (4 times more than in 2016) and secured a second grant of $3M to expand to 300 crops and integrate fertility recommendations to its platform. In 2017, the total budget is $1.4M. The contract with government agencies and utilities represent 57% of the revenue, SaaS revenues represent 29%, and investments from farming offices 14%. To conclude, we are raising a $4.5M Series A Equity, combined to a $2.5 million grant from the CEC. This investment round will fund the expansion of the company outside California, and PowWow should break-even in the first half of 2019.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

PowWow truly differs by not requiring any new hardware. All previous companies relied on proprietary sensor or telemetry solution. Moreover, PowWow innovates by its hybrid public-private model. The California Department of Food and Agriculture that provides grants to help farms deploy new irrigation equipment, uses PowWow to quantify water and energy savings that reduce GHG levels. This facilitates investments in in irrigation in a similar way that tax credits and leases had the solar industry.

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

Olivier Jerphagnon, founder & CEO, developed an appreciation for the water crisis while working in telecommunications in Australia, but his interest in agriculture stems back to his childhood in Brittany, France — Europe's largest dairy products region."If you want to see what is going to happen in 20 years, go to Israel and Australia," he said after winning the Cleantech Open 2013, just before the California drought. His first idea was to take farms off the grid by integrating solar panels, energy storage and irrigation pumps. But farmers want to control their irrigation. One day, a rancher complained about a leak that created a pond on his field, costing thousands in repairs and utility not to mention the constant worry for the crop. Olivier realized he could detect the leak using a complex algorithm he co-developed. That is when he knew he had something that could make an impact.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 100%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 0%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

2. Innovation

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Social and/or Environmental Impact

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

4. Financial sustainability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

5. Potential to Scale / Replicability

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

6. Organizational Leadership

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

7. Potential for Creating Shared Value

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 0%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

11 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Richard Kasperowski

Great project!

View all comments