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BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:Invention cuts garden water use

Costa Mesa resident’s fertilizer product produces deeper roots, making plants need less H2O.

September 10, 2007

Costa Mesa resident Mike Palmer hopes to use his gardening skills to make a different kind of green product with a new invention he claims will keep local lawns healthy while using less water.

“My personal invention is something that came out of a need that I saw as a person living in Costa Mesa and working in my garden,” Palmer said. “I have lived in the Newport Beach area all my life and love the ocean and surfing and I want to preserve and protect it.”

Palmer saw a need for an environmentally friendly way to conserve water and fertilized plants while working in his backyard garden. Four years of research and development later, Palmer produced “Garden I.V. SMART Feeder,” a plastic device with a disposable cup of ecologically safe and natural fertilizer attached. The invention, which can be hooked up to an automatic sprinkler system, is designed to stimulate plants to grow stronger with deeper roots, making them need less water, and causing less runoff to the Pacific Ocean. Customers buy the disposable fertilizer cups for the Lawn I.V. on a subscription basis, receiving new cups in the mail each month. The Fertilizer cups are made in a Costa Mesa facility.

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“I found a local (plastic) molder and a patent attorney and ran with it,” he said.

Palmer, who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from UC Santa Barbara and an MBA from Pepperdine University, works in sales, but is now poised to begin distributing his patented invention on a larger scale.

“My passion is for the entrepreneurial aspect and developing and marketing my own product,” Palmer said. “I envision this being the next three to five years of my life. It’s the future.”

Palmer has packaged the Garden I.V. together with two other water-conserving products. The Weathermatic SMART Timer calculates the amount of water a lawn needs based on information about the plants and the environment. The timer also adjusts watering schedules based on real-time weather information provided by satellite. The package also includes the MP Rotator SMART Sprinkler, a low-application rate sprinkler that reduces water runoff. The SMART Timer has been approved for commercial and residential water-saving rebates in many California water districts and the SMART Sprinkler has been approved for commercial rebates in several places.

Research from an independent testing facility eventually will determine if the Garden I.V. also will be eligible for water-saving rebates. The system can be installed by a licensed contractor, or home owners can do it themselves.

Palmer hopes to begin training more contractors to install the water-saving sprinkler system, he said. He also will have a booth at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Saturday. The annual event features many educational booths on the environment.

“Most people don’t really have a plan when it comes to fertilizer, they just sort of dump in on there when it looks like it needs it,” Palmer said. “My contribution to the environment is simply to make it possible for people to do the right thing.”

For more information, visit www.smartlandscaping.org.

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