Irritec Group Board Member & Sustainability Ambassador
Giulia Giuffre has taken Irritec, her family’s company founded in Sicily, and helped make it a beacon to spread a message of sustainable water management around the world.
“My daily mission is to make people aware of the correct management of water, so that one day those who buy a tomato in the supermarket will ask themselves, ‘How much water has been used to produce it’ and can make a conscious choice,” says Giuffre, who serves as a shareholder and a sustainability ambassador at Irritec.
Started by Giuffre’s grandfather in 1974, Irritec today is an international leader in drip irrigation, a method that allows for reduced consumption of water and energy in growing food. Its work reaches more than 120 counties, utilizing more than 800 employees in a dozen locations worldwide, she said.
In Italy alone, the company organizes about 30 events a year linking farmers with irrigation experts, she said.
“As shareholder and marketing director, I felt it was important to invest in a business model focused on training as a tool for promoting and building loyalty to sustainable irrigation,” says Giuffreè, who was named the 2021 SDG Pioneer for Sustainable Water Management for her work championing the development goal in the private sector.
The company designed Agri-Lab, a "travelling laboratory" for developing countries to promote the culture of water saving in agriculture. The project uses an irrigation kit contained in a box that can be easily shipped and installed by non-experts.
“In particular, we want to support small and new farmers … who approach agriculture with limited resources but with great development potential,” she says. “Embracing efficient irrigation means that these people can make a living from their work in the fields and also have the possibility of a more profitable future.”
Efficient water use has a particular impact on women, who comprise about 70 per cent of the workforce in agriculture, and children who are freed from working in the fields to go to school, she said.
The Agri-Lab pilot is aimed at training irrigation experts in Africa, with a focus on Senegal and Ethiopia.
Irritec’s Green Fields project, launched in Italy in 2015 and extended to Mexico, promotes proper disposal of irrigation products at the end of crop and harvest cycles by assisting farmers with waste collection and recycling. The quantity of plastic material collected from the fields has increased year by year, she said.
When COVID struck, Irritec developed valves to convert diving masks into emergency masks for lung ventilators quickly and in large quantities. The equipment was donated to several hospitals, mostly in Sicily.
“I personally feel that the responsibility to do something, to work, to spread social awareness and sustainability is not a set of good practices, but it's a real industrial revolution, it’s a modus operandi and oriented to the long term for the entire value chain,” Giuffre says.
“Our aim is to feed the planet, reduce the consumption of water and energy and fight climate change,” she says. “We are very proud of being in the U.N. Global Compact.”