Angwin root-irrigation startup gets global nod

ANGWIN — Less than a year after launching in a small industrial space in the Angwin community atop Howell Mountain in Napa County, Deep Root Irrigation, LLC (, 707-965-9313) is preparing to greatly crank up production of its water-miserly subterranean adaptation of soaker hoses as the DRI product gets increasing attention from water-conscious farmers in the North Coast and abroad.

The World Ag Expo on Wednesday said the company was picked by farmers, ranchers and agriculture professionals as one of the expo’s Top 10 New Products winners ( Available in 3-, 6-, 12- and 18-inch lengths, the patented product will be featured Feb. 10–12 at the 48th annual expo in Tulare.

What caught the attention of the judges was the purported water savings of up to 50 percent compared with drip surface irrigation, simple attachment to existing drip emitters and quick insertion of the emitters at desired depths of the root zone. Side benefits said to be found from field tests over the past five years have been a reduction in weed growth — less mowing or spraying — fewer pests finding homes in the weeds, less insect and fungus growth from standing water around the plants, and keeping liquid fertilizer in the ground to prevent runoff into waterways.

“This allows farmers to use the water budget they have currently to grow twice as much,” said inventor and founder Jeff Ciudaj, 53. “People are calling us from Italy, France and Australia.”

Fresno State University’s Center for Irrigation Technology adopted the DRI emitters as a test technology and is set to release findings next year. Also, several vineyard and orchard managers have installed emitters on a portion of their properties to see results for this season. Mr. Ciudaj is preparing for a surge in demand next year.

The 10-person production crew in Angwin makes hundreds of thousands of units monthly, but the company has been in talks with its suppliers about expanding capabilities to make 100 million annually.

Living in Napa Valley for the past three and half decades and working in construction led Mr. Ciudaj to other inventions, including an adjustable screed rail for setting tile and desalination powered by solar, wind and waves. Hearing vineyard owners and landscapers complain about water use even with drip systems made him consider an inexpensive solution.

The DRI system combines a section of soaker hose, similar to those used in irrigation for decades, with a copper attachment to stave off root intrusion and standard quarter-inch tubing that connects to existing drip emitter nipples. Sunlight rather quickly breaks down foam soaker hoses above ground, and ample air contact leads to clogging of the hose pores from calcification, also a problem for drip emitters. That’s solved by putting the tube underground, Mr. Ciudaj said.

The goal was to create something light-weight, so field crews could carry a lot at a time, with something quick to install. A trained crew can retrofit a drip emitter in roughly a minute, Mr. Ciudaj said.

In a test on 116 vines in an Angwin vineyard, half watered by drip and half by the new emitters, soil saturation for six-hour irrigation cycles was measured by neutron probes hourly. Water content 1 foot down was 0.16 inches for drip and double that for the contender. At 2 feet, 0.08 inches for drip versus 0.46 inches for the DRI emitter; and at 3 feet, 0.02 inches for drip and 0.40 inches for the DRI. Less water was necessary with the DRI system too, according to Mr. Ciudaj.

The DRI units cost $2.99 each retail, but the cost can dip well below $1.50 for volume orders for commercial installations.


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