Last month, in my blog entitled “Big Bucks and Blog Action”, I talked about the money-making opportunities to be had as a result of our global water crisis. Now, thanks to some anticipatory calculations conducted by equity investors, you can add irrigation to the list of “tech startups, engineers, investors, and creative people” posed to capitalize on our water shortages. According to Reuters, “water scarcity will generate big returns for the irrigation sector once climate change and population growth take their toll on farming.”
That statement is based on comments made by private equity managers at an agricultural investing conference held this week in Geneva. Reuters quotes Judson Hill of NGP Global Adaptation Partners, saying that irrigation in a water-scarce world holds the potential for bankers and investors to earn “buckets, buckets of money…. There are many ways to make a very attractive return in the water sector if you know where to go.”
And where’s all that irrigation money hiding? Agriculture—where water scarcity and rising food demand meet. Smart irrigation—with it potential to fine tune water use based on regional water resources, weather, and crop yields—is a smart pick, according to Hill, also quoted by Reuters as saying, “Irrigation is a big industry and it is growing. I think it’s going to grow dramatically.”
Other big winners in the agricultural water resources bounty include equipment manufacturers (like John Deere) and the companies that produce drought-resistant and genetically modified seeds like Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta.
Hill compares the opportunities and challenges of water resource management to energy efficiency, stating, “The water business is very much like the energy business was 20 or 25 years ago. As the price of water increases, we are all going to become better stewards, not because we all become environmentalists, but because it will affect our pocketbooks.”
So what do you think? There’s always that push and pull between profit motive and public good when it comes to promoting smart water use, so what do we make of the financial incentive behind smart agricultural irrigation? Do you think that investors and large companies like Monsanto can influence the industry by tying financial gains to efficient agricultural irrigation? And since agricultural irrigation is often the elephant in the room when it comes to water resource management at a municipal and local level, does it make sense to leave the conservation and water efficiency up the industry and trust that self policing will improve once pocketbooks are threatened?