GOES WITH THE FLOW
Nye and his wife, Sandra, own the TRICKL-EEZ Company. "We started in 1972 and incorporated in 1973," Sandra said, thus the company is celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year.
TRICKL-EEZ makes trickle irrigation systems that water plants by letting water trickle onto the ground and into the root system. Fertilizer also can be fed through the system.
John Nye said trickle irrigation uses about a third of the water that overhead systems use and almost nothing is lost to evaporation.
Nye has a degree in horticulture from Michigan State University. After graduating, he learned about trickle irrigation from an MSU professor, Al Kenworthy, who had studied the systems pioneered in Israel.
Back on the home farm after graduating, Nye installed trickle irrigation in a pear orchard. "The results were really outstanding," he said. Thus TRICKL-EEZ was born.
John farmed full-time for 13 years with his father, Harry, and brothers Gordon and Dale before starting TRICKL-EEZ, then farmed part-time for two more years until the company became full-time.
TRICKL-EEZ is located at 4266 Hollywood Road in Royalton Township, on part of what was the family farm.
What made the system developed by Nye unique was the electronic control system he developed to control the flow of water and nutrients and to direct it to one area or another on a farm.
The system is patented in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Over the years, it bas been refined and simplified.
TRICKL-EEZ supervises installation of new systems and installs the pump and control units, whereas most competitors only sell the parts, according to Nye.
"We started, because of my background, on the fruit industry,” Nye said. Vegetables and tree and plant nurseries came later. "Nursery is probably the biggest share now," he said.
TRICKL-EEZ has benefited from several trends in agriculture.
• Most nursery stock for retail sale is now grown from scratch in plastic pots, rather than in the ground and then transplanted into pots for sale. Trickle irrigation is ideal for controlling the flow of water and nutrients into each pot.
• Apple growers are shifting to dwarf trees. Because there’s more trees per acre, yields increase, plus harvesting is easier from smaller trees. But dwarf trees have shallower roots than do regular trees, making irrigation more critical, so trickle irrigation is ideal.
• Growers for reasons of economic survival need to grow more high quality produce cheaper. John Nye said supplemental watering of dwarf apple trees with trickle irrigation can result in 90-95 percent top quality fruit, compared to only 60-70 percent with older non-dwarf trees, with or without irrigation.
Whereas 700-800 30-pound boxes per acre of tomatoes or peppers is considered good when grown conventionally, without irrigation, Nye said, growers using trickle irrigation have grown up to 2,000 boxes of peppers and 2,500 boxes of tomatoes per acre.
The ability to grow more on less acres has importance beyond increasing farmers’ profit margins. “We really feel what we are doing is important to the future,” John Nye said. “We have to keep increasing production to feed the people of the world.”
Until now, trickle irrigation has been used in growing fruit, vegetables and nursery stock, which usually has the irrigation lines running along the ground.
But Nye this year helped install two systems in Virginia for growing corn. The pipes were laid 12-14 inches below ground, beyond the reach of chisel plows, and 3-5 feet apart.
He said a similar experimental system in Virginia yielded 300 bushels of corn per acre, far in excess of normal.
Although TRICKL-EEZ has sold systems in foreign countries, including one in Israel, most of it’s business is in the Midwest and the East.
Including the Nyes and a branch in Biglerville, Pa., TRICKL-EEZ has 14 employees.
“There’s a lot of room for increasing sales, but it’s a very competitive business right now,” John Nye said.