When Target sought help saving water at its thousands of locations across the country, Conserva Irrigation had exactly what they were looking for.
As a top retailer, Target’s red bullseye is synonymous with consumers. The company has more than 1,800 stores in the United States alone and employs over 350,000 people worldwide.
To Russ Jundt, vice president and founder of Conserva Irrigation, Target’s logo symbolizes much more than just a place where families can stock up on high-quality merchandise at a reasonable price. To him, the company’s red bullseye represents the value of team work, something that is near and dear to his heart as a leading water conservationist.
Conserva Irrigation is a landscape irrigation company that started back in 2010. The company was founded on innovative principles of water conservation. Conserva now has 44 franchises spread across the United States. Jundt created Conserva because he wanted to find a better approach to stopping the tremendous amount of water wasted by typical irrigation systems. Using studies published by the Irrigation Association, Fairfax, Virginia, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jundt developed a proprietary process for auditing irrigation systems and a “System Efficiency Score” that rates water efficiency according to a numerical scale.
In the summer of 2015, Jundt met with Target Corp.’s operations and sustainability teams. The meeting was set up by a Conserva franchisee who’d performed some snow removal services for the retail giant. Before this meeting, Jundt and his team audited three store locations and felt confident they had the ability and technology to improve their water efficiency.
Jundt recalls that around two and a half hours into the meeting, “Someone on Target’s sustainability team asked me, ‘What are you selling?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I just want to solve your water problem.’” This was exactly what Target was looking for.
According to Target, “To make sure we leave our planet in better shape for future families, we integrate sustainable practices throughout our supply chain and operations with an eye on using resources responsibly and maintaining healthy, vibrant communities.” With this goal in mind, Target has put policies in place and “set goals regarding climate policy, chemical strategy and a freshwater stewardship approach.”
During the first meeting, Jundt and his team reviewed the results of the three audits and shared a water budgeting tool with the Target teams. He told them, “We know how much water you used and how much you need to cut it to achieve a 75 percent application efficiency score.” The target teams were interested in how to obtain such a score for every one of their stores, and by December of 2016, a pilot test was created by Conserva for nine Target stores in Florida.
Part of the Hometown Team
Although Jundt’s water efficiency pitch grabbed the attention of Target’s sustainability team, Jundt believes it was his closing remarks that really sealed up the deal. Jundt talked about being part of the hometown team, and while Conserva is now based in Richmond, Virginia, both companies call the Minneapolis area home.
Jundt grew up in a small town west of Minneapolis, and to him, sharing a hometown with Target conveys a sense of camaraderie. “My dad said, ‘take care of the people in a small town because you’ll see them around later. You have to treat them right.’” Jundt took his father’s advice to mean being responsible and appreciating the relationships we develop.
Updating Irrigation Systems
Even before Conserva made any visits to Target locations, a number of them had already had smart controllers installed to run their landscape irrigation systems. But as those who work in the irrigation industry know, installing a smart controller is not enough to guarantee efficient use of water.
Jundt explained that when a Conserva franchisee makes a visit to a Target store location, they check a total of 120 different data points. According to Jundt, the goal is to “figure out where the wasted water is going and to do that, you need boots on the ground.” After the auditor has assessed the site, they create a model based on Conserva’s proprietary algorithm that shows what needs to be repaired. Once everything has been addressed, the auditor’s focus turns toward optimizing the smart controller.
Conserving Water Together
By the end of this year, Conserva will be in over 300 Target locations by the end of 2018. Since the partnership between the two companies began, Conserva has saved Target over 36 million gallons of water.
In March 2018, Target announced a new freshwater stewardship initiative, created with the World Wildlife Fund. The goal of the initiative is to reduce absolute water use by 15 percent in its stores, distribution centers, and headquarters locations by 2025. Optimization for Target’s outdoor irrigation systems will be overseen by Conserva.
Conserva crews who have worked at Target stores say they don’t feel like outside vendors. Jundt said, “While we are on those properties, we are Target team members, and we treat those locations with respect. When I drive by one of the stores, I think to myself, ‘that’s us.’”
Conserva’s project with Target also received recognition in the form of the Vanguard Award from the Irrigation Association. The award honors the collaborative execution of an innovative installation project in the irrigation industry.
Speaking about the future, Jundt said, “We suspect that this significant and prideful relationship with Target will continue to expand.”
Interested In Starting Your Own Conserva Irrigation Franchise?
If you are interested in becoming your own boss, or if you have extensive experience in the irrigation industry, you should consider starting your own Conserva Irrigation franchise. Conserva serves both residential and commercial properties across the country. Our franchise owners have access to proven client retention systems and a year-round cycle of irrigation-focused services that offer them consistent and predictable revenue.
Call (804) 621-7167 to find out how to become part of the Conserva Irrigation franchise family.