Word on the Street: India-based parent company of Fresno drip-irrigation firm earns Fortune accolades

Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd., an India-based company with its U.S. drip-irrigation operations rooted in Fresno, was recently named by Fortune magazine as one of 51 businesses on its first “Change the World” list of companies making a significant difference in global environmental or social problems. The company ranked seventh on the list.

Jain Irrigation was founded in 1963 as a company selling fertilizer and seeds in India. The company began manufacturing PVC pipe in 1980, and in 1986 began selling micro-irrigation systems in its home state of Maharashtra in western India. The firm’s U.S. division, Jain (Americas) Inc. was formed in 1995. Jain does business in 116 countries around the world and has a global workforce of about 9,000 employees.

Earlier this year, Jain acquired the assets of PureSense Environmental Inc., a Fresno-based irrigation technology company that shut down in December. PureSense was an early leader in the use of soil sensors and software to help farmers monitor and fine-tune their water use.

According to Fortune editors, Jain helped to adapt its micro-irrigation technology for use by its local farmers in India who historically relied on rain or flooding to irrigate crops on their small land holdings. The magazine reported that crop yields rose by 50 to 300 percent and boosted farmers’ incomes as well. The company also developed solar pumps for farms where electricity is scare for pumping water, and invested in financing and food processing to develop markets for farmers’ products.

“The list is not meant to be a ranking of the overall ‘goodness’ of companies or their ‘social responsibility,’” Fortune’s editors stated. “Big corporations are complex operations that affect the world in myriad ways. The goal here is simply to shine a spotlight on instances where companies are doing good as part of their profit-making strategy, and to shed new light on the power of capitalism to improve the human condition.”