Through the years, I?ve been privileged to meet many individuals in our industry. From landscape contractors to dealers, distributors, and wholesale supply store owners, to presidents of manufacturing companies, CEO?s, etc., they are all giants in their respective fields and major contributors to helping our industry grow. But Bob Rupar is in a class by himself. Rupar is a water activist. He eats, sleeps and dreams water, and his commitment to water conservation is never ending. As vice president of Nelson Irrigation Corporation in Walla Walla, Washington, Rupar spearheaded a team to pioneer the MP Rotator to the turf and landscape market.
The timing was impeccable. As our population grows, and irrigated farmland gives way to urbanization, water becomes even scarcer. Throw in a few droughts around the country, along with watering restrictions, and you have the perfect climate to introduce a new water-saving product. I?m not so sure that it was planned this way, but there is that old saying, ?Timing is everything.? However, I?m getting ahead of myself.
Rupar was born in Kansas, and when he was a young boy the family moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. His father was a coal miner, his mother a school teacher, and Bob learned a very strong work ethic. He is proud of his heritage, and well he should be.
After graduating in 1963 from Colorado State University in Fort Collins with a degree in agricultural engineering, Rupert got a job in 1964 with L. R. Nelson Manufacturing, Inc. He went to work in the Rainy Sprinkler Sales division. In 1968, Rainy was sold to Rain Bird, and Rupar made the move, selling irrigation systems to golf courses as well as the turf market. Ken Mills and Ed Shoemaker moved to Rain Bird as well, and this small cadre of men became some of the movers and shakers of the irrigation industry.
In 1972, Bart Nelson, with the help of his father Russell, established Nelson Irrigation Corporation, focusing its efforts on the agricultural market. Bart invited Rupar to join him in the business, and he did so in 1974.
?He is one of my best friends, closest confidants, and a trusted advisor,? says Bart Nelson. ?He has been a major contributor to our business. He is not only a good engineer but an inventor as well. He helped develop the MP Rotator.?
Through the years, Rupar learned to appreciate the importance of one of nature?s most precious resources: water. He learned how it is used in agriculture, and developed a respect for those who knew how to conserve water while achieving greater crop yields.
The company?s mission statement was developed along those same lines. At Nelson Irrigation, it is mandated that while searching for better ways to irrigate crops it?s necessary to conserve water as well. Twenty years ago, the company developed rotator technology that offered high uniformity and lower precipitation rates.
So it was only natural that ten years later the company would begin to look at turf, the largest cash crop in the United States, and how they could help maximize the use of water. As they began to investigate the turf market, they realized the market didn?t need another "me too" product. What was needed was something revolutionary, and Nelson had the technology from the agricultural side. Rupar headed up the team to develop a rotator for the turf market (they saw a need for a sprinkler head in the eight to 30-foot range). However, they first had to figure out how to make a part-circle rotator (they didn?t need partials in agriculture).
Two years in field trials on 210 different test sites in ten different countries proved the product was ready to be marketed, and the MP Rotator was launched in 2003. The cost of taking a new product to market, especially by a newcomer, is a Herculean task. Nelson Irrigation is known for its agricultural irrigation prowess, but who were they in the turf market? To make it even tougher, they formed a new company to market this product, Walla Walla Sprinkler Company.
The MP Rotator has had a great deal of success since its launch, becoming a favorite in the irrigation world.
Equally as important to the success of the product, Rupar feels a sense of satisfaction, knowing that they are helping to conserve water while not compromising the beauty of the landscape. I guess you can call him a Renaissance man.
It seems his every waking hour is devoted to water use efficiency. He dreams about water, how to better conserve it, how to use it more effectively, etc. So with everything else going on in his life, his job, and what little spare time he has, Rupar established the Walla Walla Watershed Alliance (www.wwwalliance.org). He is one of the founders, and is currently president and a director of this non-profit group whose purpose is collaborative solutions to restore watersheds for the benefit of the environment without sacrificing the economy and the culture.
And what does he do in his spare time? He and his wife, Sydney, enjoy their three daughters. Rupar says he?s a wanna-be golfer, but he has many other interests. His dream was to be a farmer, so in his spare time he oversees farms and vineyards. He is an avid elk hunter and loves fly fishing. One wonders where he finds the time to do all these things.
The old adage of ?If you want something done, ask a busy man,? personifies Bob Rupar. He says, ?I?ve had a very rewarding life, and I have no spare time on my hands.? But Rupar?s life is far from over. He still has many more projects on his plate to be finished.
Water, water resources, and water conservation have been his life?s endeavor. Bob Rupar is living his passion and the world has greatly benefitted from his efforts. We hope to see him around for a long, long time.