014, Steele Lorenz, MyRain | Saving Water Resources through Business Innovation
MyRain distributes efficient irrigation equipment to small plot farmers in India. It is not an innovation of technology; drip irrigation has existed and been a proven technology for many years. By using drip irrigation, you can increase crop yield by 50% to 100% and decrease water consumed between 20% and 50% when compared with flood irrigation. Increasing yields can drastically improve the quality of life for small plot farmers.
Globally, 70% of fresh water is used for agricultural purposes. It has been estimated that by 2050 the world population will be around 9 billion. With the emerging global middle class, the demand for food will double. This places tremendous pressure on our fresh water resources.
In the arid region of southern India where MyRain is working, the water tables are falling rapidly. This could reach a crisis level within 15 to 20 years.
The problem the technology. Drip irrigation exists. The problem is distribution. This is where MyRain innovates. This year, the irrigation systems that they have distributed will save 5 billion liters of water. That’s about the amount of water that a good sized city will consume in a year…and they are just getting started.
Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Steele Lorenz grew up enjoying sports. He says he liked games with clear, fixed rules. He participated in lots of extracurricular activities including tennis camp and piano lessons. It was a far cry from the conditions of rural Indian farmers.
Steele attended the University of Minnesota with the intention of obtaining a JD degree and practicing law. Steele says “By accident, I ended up in an entrepreneurship course.” He participated in the Ventures Enterprise. His experience with entrepreneurship lit a fire inside of him. That is when he found the Acara Institute. At the time they were focused on for-profit social enterprises solving water-related issues in India.
Steele participated in the Acara Challenge where his team came in second place. When the challenge ended, Steele and his partners graduated and they went on with their lives. But they were left with a business plan, and an awakened sense that they could make an impact. Steele could not escape from the idea. He and his partner Sri Latha kept testing the concept until there was nothing left to do but to either execute or forget it.
Tried working with NGOs, but did not find them to move at the same pace as entrepreneurs. Next, moved to retailers already working with farmers, but there were three main problems to overcome. MyRain has taken on each in turn.
In this episode of the Social Entrepreneur podcast, we discuss:
- How Steele caught the entrepreneurial bug.
- The Acara Challenge.
- The Story of MyRain.
- The challenges of water resource management in the face of feeding 9 billion people.
- The three challenges faced by MyRain and how they have addressed each one.
- How they are scaling MyRain in India.
- The challenges of measuring impact.
- MyRain on the web: http://myrainindia.com
- Acara Institute: http://acara.environment.umn.edu/
- The Ventures Enterprise at the Carlson School of Management: http://carlsonschool.umn.edu/enterprise-programs/ventures-enterprise
- The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water: http://amzn.to/1TcsKQg
- Water: http://amzn.to/1Tctp4m