Olson Irrigation Systems

As seen in Irrigazette, March/April 1999 issue

Donald Olson,

"An Irrigation Giant"

Donald ("Don") Olson, founder of Olson Irrigation Systems in Santee, California, takes pleasure in solving problems. Thirty years ago, when a few venturesome San Diego area avocado growers decided to cultivate 200 steep, rocky acres, Olson developed some of the first drip emitters ever installed in the United States.

Irrigazette Cover
Don Olson

Southern California rapidly became a demonstration area for drip irrigation. Growers from the state's other agricultural areas came to see how drip made farming possible on previously unusable land. Olson recalls, "After we convinced several large companies to try it near Bakersfield, drip became an accepted method of irrigation."

Olson Irrigation Systems, the company he founded in 1976, consistently provides problem-solving innovations for both agricultural and landscape applications. Patents include DRIP-EZE emitters, the Olson turbulent-flow emitter, self-perforating barbs for emitters and jets, the O-jets, Hydro-jet, Ultra-jet and the EH-12 multiple outlet emitter head (designed to simplify the conversion of sprinklers to drip).

His secret of staying on the cutting edge of product design, Olson says, is to "get out and meet users, and discuss their requirements." Items developed and manufactured by Olson Irrigation typically are created for the needs of a single customer, "and then become appropriate for many others."

Olson takes satisfaction in developing and manufacturing products that help solve an international problem: dwindling water supplies. "Right now there's a worldwide demand for more efficient use of water," he says. "It's a fertile field for innovative irrigation concepts."

Olson, a large man known for his sense of humor as well as his ingenuity, majored in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. His interest and expertise in molded plastic parts led him, at age 27, to start his own tool and die company. Design work on the Browning B400 spinner sprinkler launched a life-long interest in irrigation. Olson served as president of U.S. operations for Australia's Reed Irrigation Systems (now Toro Ag) prior to founding his own company.

Olson Irrigation Systems occupies a 20,000-square-foot facility complete with state-of-the-art injection molding, assembly, ultrasonic welding, packaging and tooling equipment. The product line encompasses mini-sprinklers, micro-sprayers, WaterWell valves, and pressure-compensating emitters famous for Olson's patented Vibra-Clean principle. A recent challenge was to respond to customers frustrated by the tangle of fittings, wire and glue inherent in irrigation control valve installations. The resulting Olson MVA (Multiple Valve Assembly) combines all parts into one streamlined, easy-to-install multiple-valve unit.

Olson's dedication to quality and creativity has earned a worldwide customer base, and, in 1996, the Irrigation Association's coveted Industry Achievement Award. A frequent, and satisfying, comment he hears from customers is, "Why didn't someone think of that before?".

Olson resides in El Cajon, California, with his wife, Judy.