Conserva aims to save world, one sprinkler at a time
Lawn sprinklers might seem innocuous, but malfunctioning or broken units contribute to massive amounts of wasted water across the globe.
We’ve all seen these offenders doing their dirty work: poorly timed or malfunctioning irrigation sprinklers blasting at full tilt during a rainstorm or shooting their precious water onto impervious asphalt that sadly flows toward the nearest sewer drain. In our collective quest for immaculately lush lawns, fastidious corporate groundskeepers and obsessive-compulsive homeowners waste gargantuan quantities of water each year.
Now that mega-droughts and major wildfires are frequently in the news, Minnesota-based Conserva Irrigation hopes the tide is finally turning toward smarter watering, for the benefit of pocketbooks and aquifers alike.
Founded in the so-called land of 10,000 lakes, Conserva Irrigation is the industry’s first franchised irrigation company started by Russ Jundt—an outdoorsy-looking guy who cares deeply about preserving the planet’s water resources. He lives on a houseboat during the temperate Midwestern summers and, in the seven years since founding Conserva, he’s learned that Americans tend to value saving money more than anything related to environmental conservation.
Conserva leads with professionalism
In response, he’s pivoted his brand’s marketing message accordingly, and teamed up with Outdoor Living Brands and Toro’s irrigation team, which has led to a dramatic uptick of franchise sales in both water-starved and lakeland territories alike.
Seated at a conference table with a big white board, within a small office in an innocuous suburban strip center, Jundt is visibly animated when he starts busting out diagrams and factoids about wasted water. As he explained, most people would never guess how much water can be wasted from a single janky sprinkler—20 or more gallons in just one minute—and the average irrigating homeowner wastes more than 33,000 gallons of water per month.
By design, Conserva Irrigation is a social franchise that uses profit-motivated business sense to help solve a global crisis quicker than any activist or regional-only business ever could.
“I guess I could march on the capitol steps and become an activist and I could say, say no to irrigation—I would never see any effects of change in my lifetime,” Jundt said. “I can affect greater change by building a very large, profitable company that helps others have the same message and we could save billions upon billions upon billions of gallons of water.”
He first became exposed to franchising and Outdoor Living Brands as the first franchisee of its Mosquito Squad brand, and continues to run that franchise out of the same office in the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. The company claims many franchisees are generating a half-million dollars of revenue during their first year in business, with a comparatively small all-in investment of $40,000 to $80,000.
Russ Jundt is an enthusiastic founder,
Customers using Conserva receive complete irrigation system checks with every service call, with historic weather data and some systems that can provide a live read of soil moisture levels to ensure that irrigation is effective without being wasteful in both dry and wet spells. The company claims its residential customers can save more than $170 on monthly water bills.
Residential clients account for approximately 70 percent of Conserva’s client base, with the other 30 percent from commercial customers. All told, the company estimates it has conserved more than 100 million gallons of water.
Outdoor Living Brands, parent company of Archadeck, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, Mosquito Squad and Renew Crew, purchased a 60 percent stake in Conserva in 2017—and the brand is up to more than 15 franchisees covering 32 territories across the country.
As more parts of the world experience water shortages, tiered water rates and restricted irrigation schedules, Jundt says water conservation is in the early days of a “perfect storm” that will benefit water tables and his company’s franchisees alike.
“The green initiative has never been stronger and water, we’re understanding now, is a very precious resource—we’re finally as a nation embracing that concept,” he said. “It’s also the first time we’re seeing technology enter the irrigation space from outside the industry…and this convergence of trends has brought together this special opportunity.”