NORCROSS, Ga. - Two years ago, an engineer in Mexico was asked by a group of concerned local farmers to help them reduce their irrigation pumping costs. Water was scarce, and electricity was expensive. Searching the Internet, the engineer found EMA Inc., a small company in Norcross specializing in electronic motor controls.

The area where these farms were located was hot, dry, and remote. Equipment had to not only withstand the harsh environment, it had to be easy to install and operate plus reliable enough to perform well in unmanned, remote locations. The farmers had attempted to use standard control equipment, but it failed constantly. EMA worked with the engineer to resolve the numerous control, reliability, and environmental issues.

Following this success, Eddie Mayfield, EMA’s president, began looking at the United States methods of irrigation control, and determined that what had helped the farmers in Mexico could be even more useful to U.S. farmers.

EMA, working with other control companies, developed a product specifically designed to control large irrigation pumps, saving energy and water. Many, if not most, of these pumps within the United States are run at constant speed by either electric motors or diesel engines. EMA's product, trademarked as the "Pumpmizer" is an environmentally hardened control which saves energy and water by varying the speed of the pump.

"Electrical costs decline at an exponential rate as the pump speed is reduced,” says Mayfield. “This level of cost reduction does not occur by simply closing valves. An added benefit is that by tightly controlling the amount of water pumped, the farmers can also avoid excessive run-off, and wasted water, both of which are crucial issues in farming states."

Replacing diesel engines with high efficiency electric motors and controls has allowed the farmers, in many instances, to qualify for a number of rebate programs, both from their local power company and USDA, besides reducing their overall operating costs.

Asked what motivates Pumpmizer purchases, Mayfield says "It depends on the local area. If air quality is an issue, then sometimes just getting the diesel replaced with an electric motor and energy saving control is the primary driver. In areas where electrical costs are high, the electrical savings alone will drive the purchase. For others, the ancillary benefits can outweigh the savings.

“Using the Pumpmizer eliminates 'water hammer' which in some irrigation systems, is responsible for a lot of maintenance and aggravation for the farmers,” he said.

EMA, located in a suburb of Atlanta, is an unlikely player in the agricultural market. Norcross is hardly the center of large-scale agricultural activity, and although the company was well established as experts in electronic motor controls and systems; it was primarily within the industrial marketplace.

EMA introduced the Pumpmizer at the World Agricultural Expo in Tulare, Calif., in February. Following the show, EMA began quoting and taking orders primarily in the western United States.

The company plans to be a major supplier of electronic motor drives to the U.S. irrigation control market.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com