A simplewater saving invention from the driest state in Australia is beginning to make inroads into the North American gardening category.
Manufactured in Ohio and South Australia, the Greenwell water saver is now available in 27 states in just its first full season in the United States and Canada.
Brian Measday came up with the innovative water saving device while tending tomato plants in his suburban backyard in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1996.
In the two decades since, he has sold hundreds of thousands of the Greenwells in Australia through retailers and to commercial customers such as landscapers and local councils with the help of HR Products.
After appointing a North American licensee, Greenwells began being manufactured by HC Companies in Ohio in 2015 with the first products hitting the market late in the year.
Measday said the move into North America was looking “incredibly promising”.
“It’s a bit like building a house, we’ve got a solid foundation but we haven’t fully moved in yet,” he said.
“But the potential in the United States is enormous.”
The recycled UV stabilized plastic products are available in regular (17 inch) and large (24 inch) sizes. They have been proven in Australia to promote deep root watering and reduce water costs by 25 per cent.
The devices are recommended to be used for three years after planting and prevent water run-off, ensure water and fertilizers are delivered quickly directly to the root zone and can be re-used up to three times.
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Miller Keats is the North American licensee for Greenwell.
Managing Director Sean Hegarty said there were four main pillars for the product in the United States and Canada: Online, including Amazon and Jackson & Perkins, independent nurseries and hardware stores, big box hardware chains and commercial customers such as city councils.
The product has made inroads in the first two categories and has been used by several North American city councils including the City of Sunnyvale in California and the City of Kelowna in Canada.
Commercial distributor SHERRILLtree has recently been appointed to focus on the local government sector in the United States. A representative from the leading North Carolina tree products company will be in Adelaide next week to learn more about the product and speak with its Australian distributors.
“This is really our first season over there but we are getting some good interest,” Hegarty said.
“The good thing about Brian’s product is that it’s so immediately obvious how simple it is that we don’t have any trouble convincing people to try it.”
Hegarty said he hoped to attract a major chain such as Lowe’s to stock the product, which retails for about US$10-$12.
He said establishing a manufacturing base in Ohio was an important step.
“Americans like American made products so if you can make your product there it gives you an advantage,” he said.
“It’s going quite well in Canada too, we’ve got the Home Hardware chain, which has 1000 stores and they’ve been buying them every month.”
Hegarty said the drought in the United States had the potential to boost sales of Greenwells but its value as a water-saving device needed to be proven in America.
“We’ve just applied for a grant with the Californian Water Authority to fund a study with the University of Minnesota to measure the performance of the Greenwells and their ability to save water while still raising a healthy tree,” he said.
“Then we’ll have a peer reviewed paper on the water-saving benefits and the commercial savings using Greenwells so we’ll be able to do a massive push with the councils at their national conference.
“In America you’ve got to be patient and persistent and if each quarter’s better than the previous quarter and provided that you’ve got some momentum then that’s all you can really hope to achieve.
“The potential’s definitely there but it took Brian 10 years to build it up in Australia so it’s going to take time in the US as well.”
Greenwell has also recently appointed a distributor in the Netherlands for the European market.