Whether driven by regulation or growers’ desire to save money and protect natural resources, water conservation is high on Florida’s agenda. One inventor’s commitment to this cause recently got national primetime attention on ABC’s popular show “Shark Tank.”
Citrus growers in Florida might be aware of Johnny Georges’ Tree T-Pee, but now the world is about to learn about the water-saving device after he struck a deal with John Paul DeJoria on the TV show after successfully pitching the product. The program revolves around entrepreneurs trying to sell big-time investors (The Sharks) on their inventions, services, or goods.
DeJoria knows about good investments. He is the co-founder of Paul Mitchell Hair Systems and the Patrón Spirits Company. Georges’ desire to change the world by conserving water and helping farmers jibes well with the billionaire. DeJoria has an eye toward environmental stewardship, so the product’s water conservation potential appealed to him. “Farmers are the cornerstone of America,” said DeJoria, during the show. “What you are doing is good and you should have the chance to make it big.”
The show’s producers learned about the Tree T-Pee from a video of Georges describing the device on Florida Grower’s YouTube channel while he exhibited during the Florida Citrus Show in Ft. Pierce in 2011.
Making The Pitch
Georges flew to Los Angeles to make his TV pitch on the water saving potential of the Tree T-Pee. He gave a humble, but impassioned presentation. “What are the two bad things that can happen with mircrosprinklers?” he asks. “Precipitation and wind diffusion. The Tree T-Pee takes that out of the equation.”
The Tree T-Pee is a cone-shaped device that directs water and fertilizer from microsprinklers to the base of the tree. According to Georges, this can improve tree growth by 37% in early years of development. Typically, the product is placed on a new tree and remains for three to five years. The cones are made of recycled plastic and are reusable for up to 20 years.
Considering a three-day-per-week watering schedule is common in citrus production, water applied to a tree is 25,000 gallons per year vs. 800 gallons with the Tree T-Pee. “I am very conservative on the water savings figures,” says Georges. “We have had scientists check the savings and it is potentially much higher. Another thing you get is frost protection when you need it on those handful of nights in the winter when it gets cold here.”
Georges points to a night in January 2010, which dropped temperatures to 19°F in some areas. Trees covered by Tree T-Pees had a 40°F or above reading at the base with steam from the 72°F water engulfing the canopy of young trees.
Next Big Steps
Newly minted partners Georges and DeJoria are preparing to roll out the Tree T-Pee. Georges has said that Tree T-Pees should be on every tree crop in America. With DeJoria, that commitment is taking on a more global scale.
In recent months, the pair has been protecting intellectual property rights preparing for a major rollout campaign in the coming year. The campaign will target 80 countries. A very large order of recycled plastic has been purchased — one of the largest ever — and Tree T-Pees are being manufactured in preparation for the global campaign.