Innovation, The Thirsty Crow, and Micro Drip

[This is summary of my presentation at Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs Summit (YLES) at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on Jan 21, 2010. The theme of the summit was Sustainopreneurship and I presented story of Micro Drip – one of Acumen Fund’s portfolio companies. I’m part of Micro Drip team working on market development project]

Innovation means new answers to old questions. And Micro Drip is providing the innovative answer to this centuries old question of survival and prosperity.

Let me tell you a story to explain what I mean. But first tell me if you have heard the story of The Thirsty Crow?

Well, I’m going to tell you the story of the crow’s great grandson. He is searching for water in a hot summer noon. And he finds a jug with very little water and lots of stones. Obviously so, because all his grandfathers have been drinking and throwing stones in this same jug. So this crow too, following his grandfathers, brings some stones and puts them in the jug. The stones drink whatever the little water was left in the jug and crow dies thirsty.

Point is that dynamics of a problem change over time and so should solution.

Agriculture is backbone of Pakistani economy. It provides more than 25% of GDP and hires more than 50% of work force. But the available water is getting less and less, and today Pakistan is among the water stressed countries, heading to be a water scarce country by 2025. There is already lack of 23% agriculture water, but Pakistani farmer are not realizing it. They would still do flood irrigation whose efficiency is only 20-30%. Besides wasting precious water, flood irrigation causes loss of fertilizer, restricts plant growth by choking it, increases chances of plant disease transmittal, and helps weeds grow in field.

Continuously sinking aquifer is a clear signal that water in this jug is becoming less and less. To which farmers respond by throwing the stones of more tubewells. They are deepening their bore wells to pump from the aquifer. They are not far from facing Thar like situation where the tubewells are sometimes run for only few minutes a day because there is not enough water underground. And this would be the stage where crow may die thirsty.

Had the crow been innovative, he would have brought a straw to sip the little water left in jug. And that’s exactly MicroDrip does. They sell network of straw like pipes that provide water to root zones of plant – only where it is required, increasing efficiency of irrigation up to 98%. So Micro Drip is the innovative answer to the questions of irrigating lands for maximum yields.