Entrepreneur-inventor Tim Dutcher has created a water-powered lawn and garden fertilizer system made mostly of ABS resin.
Dutcher, president and chief operating officer of Grotech Industries LLC in Chesapeake, Va., initially sold 250 handmade PVC units. But the PVC could not withstand elevated water pressures, so he changed to ABS. With that modification, pricing was too high, so Dutcher brought on custom injection molder Xpectra Corp. of Niwot, Colo. Xpectra helped slash pricing to $295 from $495 for the largest model.
Without touching any fertilizer, a user drops a sealed, water-soluble bag into the unit. Water dissolves the polyvinyl alcohol film in about 15 seconds, and the fertilizer dissolves in 30-40 minutes.
``We achieve consistent concentration from start to finish without use of electricity, pumps or moving parts,'' Dutcher said by telephone. ``We use power from water.''
Dutcher and Cameron Bowen formed Grotech. Bowen's fertilizer-making business, Cameron Chemicals Inc. of Suffolk, Va., provided financing. They worked on molds with Phil Warlop's Portage Mold & Die Inc. in Ravenna, Ohio. Now, Dutcher, Bowen and Warlop co-own Grotech.
After Dutcher's October approach, Xpectra analyzed the system and proposed high-volume fixtures and manufacturing processes. Xpectra became the exclusive manufacturer of Earth & Turf-brand products and, in early February, shipped the first systems from its Niwot plant. Xpectra molds 10 of 13 parts in the base unit and assembles the systems, including a clear ABS tube and two cross-linked polyethylene tubes.
Grotech aims for national distribution in 2004.
Aquafilm LLC of Tampa, Fla., extrudes the blown film bags in Hartlebury, England. Grotech packages the fertilizer at a Chesapeake blending facility. Design and material patents are pending.
Portage Mold is making multicavity molds that Xpectra will use for high-volume production at its plant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.