Valmont Industries brings water to the people

Kelly Dawson
March 14, 2018
15 min read
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There are more than 250 companies in our combined portfolios, and they are all making amazing advancements. From names you know, like Tesla, to those little gems you haven’t heard of yet, like Xylem, we want you to know all about what your holdings are up to. These ‘deep dives’ will help you understand what you’re invested into and how your dollars are making the world a better place.

Valmont Industries is part of our Clean Water portfolio.

  • The globe is made up of 70 percent of water, and only 2.5% of that is fresh
  • Four million people struggle with severe water shortages at least once a month
  • Valmont reports $2.5 billion in net sales and 23 global brands under its umbrella

If you’ve ever stood out on a perch overlooking the ocean, then you know how vast it seems. It appears that every passing wave, every glitter in the moving tide, is part of an endless supply of water. On a smaller scale, the same can be said from a dock above a lake or a shoreline on a river — that the globe’s many accumulations of this element are beautiful constants in our way of life. But the truth is, water isn’t as much of a given as it seems. And the amount of it that humans can consume is even smaller and getting ever more scarce.

National Geographic estimates that the globe is made up of 70 percent of water, and only 2.5% of that is fresh. Furthermore, only 1% of that is able to be accessed. It used to be that this amount of fresh water, however tiny, could sustain the world’s population. However, the amount of people who currently call this planet home — and the strain of our shared globalization — has made it so water is increasingly becoming a prize to be won.

In a paper published in the Science Advances journal in 2016, professor of water management Arjen Y. Hoekstra suggested that four million people struggle with severe water shortages at least once a month. In other words, two-thirds of the global population regularly have to figure out what to do next when water is used up around them. It’s the culprit behind low crop yields and failures, price increases, and starvation. Not everyone is affected equally by these scary outcomes, of course, but since we all depend on the same places for food, we’re all in trouble.

Ok, so we’ve gone from a serene depiction of an ocean view to a dire situation of water shortage — that’s a stressful turn of events. But it’s all to illustrate what Valmont Industries is up to. For more than 70 years, this company has been entwined in the backbone of the world’s growing cities: it builds the components of our infrastructure so that everything from buildings to street lamps to fire hydrants are in working order. Sure, it’s impressive, but that’s not why we’re tipping our hats. Valmont also works in worldwide agricultural markets to supply products that conserve water during irrigation processes. Because of its equipment, farms across the world can work more efficiently while saving as much of this resource as possible.

It’s exactly what the world’s industries need to do, and Valmont is a leader in this necessary shift toward water conservation.

Watershed moment

In 1946, Robert Daugherty was living in Valley, Nebraska and ready to start a new phase of his life. It had been a year since World War II ended, where he served as a marine, and his uncle suggested that he think about going into business for himself. So, Mr. Daugherty developed a simple plan: He’d buy the local farm machine store with his life savings of $5,000. It was a decision that eventually grew into Valmont.

Things started rolling when Mr. Daugherty bought the licensing rights to manufacture the central pivot of an irrigation machine a few years later, and his engineering team spent the ensuing years making the machine faster, stronger, and eventually, electric-powered. By the end of the 1950s, Valmont Industries was formed, and the company later expanded into infrastructure products: galvanized steel, tubing for electricity, concrete poles, and more. Currently, Valmont has a presence in transportation, energy, mining, architecture, and irrigation — basically, the rural and urban worlds combined.

Those humble postwar savings grew into a company that reports $2.5 billion in net sales and 23 global brands under its umbrella. Valmont operates on six continents and in 100 countries and counts 10,000 people on its list of employees. And if those numbers aren’t impressive, consider this: Mr. Daugherty stayed at the helm of his company for 57 years, and when he retired, his charity commissioned $50 million to create the Global Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska. That’s pretty cool, right?

But let’s get back on track. Valmont may not be solely about irrigation, but what it’s doing in this regard may help reverse the big issues facing freshwater. The company is focused on mechanized irrigation, an up-and-coming way of farming that it perfected over the years from that initial licensing agreement. Mechanized irrigation creates higher crop yields for reductions in all of the following: time, fuel, fertilizers, and water. Plus, it lasts longer than traditional equipment. This is what Valmont refers to as “precision irrigation,” and it’s broken down into four distinctions: control technology (panels that monitor growth), irrigation management (for water conservation), irrigation products (for efficient production), and water management (to reduce waste).

By using the products in these distinct fields, Valmont is actively working to prepare farmers for the future. Together, the products allow farmers around the world to produce more crops on tighter timelines, conserve water as they work, cut down on wastes like plastics, and reuse soil and nutrients. It’s all to make sure that responsible agriculture leads to a more secure world.

Drink it up

The United Nations estimates that everyone, regardless of where they are on the planet, needs about five to 13 gallons of water per day. But here’s where things get interesting: one in nine people can’t get their hands on clean water, and one in three don’t count sanitation amongst their daily lives. Put simply, without those five to 13 gallons, people can’t clean, cook, eat, or drink. Therefore, they get sick and potentially die.

Let’s couple that with more findings from the non-profit organization the Water Project. Right now, agriculture makes up about 70 percent of freshwater use throughout the world, and it can climb to as high as 90 percent in some areas. The non-profit estimates that this usage will rise by 19 percent by 2050, as the world’s population increases.

Valmont is well aware of these statistics, and that’s why it’s a leader in the agricultural industry’s quest for a change. Its collection of cutting-edge products will continue to reach more farms throughout the world as the company expands, and it also hopes to personally educate more farmers of these efficient practices the years ahead.

Valmont may not be the sole means of change in the effort for global water conservation, but like the element itself, every little bit counts. And by incorporating its long-standing entrepreneurial spirit with its line of innovative tools, Valmont is ensuring that all of its efforts do.

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