In a traditionally male-led industry, it's not a common sight to see a major company founded and led by a woman. Rona Orlicky, formerly a successful business attorney, pivoted after two decades to agri-tech with the mission of making the world greener. Orlicky co-founded DryGair, one of the leading horticulture dehumidifier manufacturers, in 2010.
Could you tell us a bit about what drove you to start DryGair?
I worked as an attorney for many years. It was my first profession, and I achieved quite a bit of success. However, at a certain point, I understood that it wasn't fulfilling me personally, and I wanted to make a greater impact.
During this time, I also became a mother. That's something that completely changes your outlook on life. Suddenly the urge to make sure my children inherit a world worth living in became the center of my focus. So I started looking for ways to create a positive impact on the world, something I can be proud of wholeheartedly.
How did the idea of DryGair come about?
The initial idea for DryGair came from the Volcani A.R.O., Israel's agriculture research center. They saw the current means of horticulture climate control as lacking and came up with the idea to separate temperature, humidity, and airflow control. Traditional humidity control was extremely inefficient, and they recognized that optimizing this one part of cultivation could save enormous amounts of energy.
Dr. Avraham Arbel, a renowned agricultural engineer and the A.R.O.'s leading expert in closed environment agriculture climate control, approached 'Misha Refrigeration' with the idea of developing a dehumidifier specifically for greenhouses. 'Misha' is a family company that I'm part of.
When I heard Dr. Arbel's idea, I knew immediately that this was something I needed to make sure came to fruition.
That was the seed that started DryGair. The goal was to solve a common problem, one that has a major impact on energy use and sustainability. We wanted to reduce the energy needs of horticulture, which is one of the world's most widespread and basic industries.
I thought a product like this could have a very big impact not just on my environment but on a global scale.
How have your plans for DryGair worked out?
Today DryGair is no longer a seedling of an idea. It's grown into a large and beautiful plant that I'm extremely proud of. Our patented systems are used by growers around the world in different types of facilities and a very wide range of crops.
We save growers a lot of energy, 50% on average. But that's not all. Our customers also report overall improved cultivation – better yields, higher quality, and close to no diseases and molds without using sprays.
That's another benefit I'm proud of. DryGair reduces the toxicity associated with commercial horticulture. Besides energy, which has more of a macro effect on the environment, fungicides and pesticides really impact the local environment. The runoff from traditional greenhouses often pollutes local habitats, affecting wildlife, local water sources, and, ultimately, human health as well.
In general, DryGair has proven itself as an incredibly useful cultivation tool. Much of the discussion over the past year or two is around energy. But growers that use DryGair know that it's much more than a way to reduce energy costs.
What's it like being a woman in this field?
Being a woman in this industry has its challenges. But I must say that over the past few years, I've seen a big shift in this issue. There are many more women-led companies, and we have definitely made our mark on the industry.
As a woman, I felt that I had to prove myself. But I quickly realized that the solution speaks for itself. When you're promoting a good idea and a good product, doors will inevitably open up. It's also a part of my agenda to promote women in this industry. I'm always proud to say that the first three employees at DryGair were women!
It's also important to note that DryGair is a team effort. We have an amazing team that drives the company forward and provides wonderful assistance to our customers, both before and after the sale. Our team cares a lot about our customers and really believes in the product. We wouldn't be able to achieve all that we have without them.
Today, I see the fact that I'm a woman as an advantage. For example, much of what we do at DryGair is to promote an open dialogue with growers in order to constantly improve and adapt to their needs. I feel that, as a woman, I'm naturally adept at managing this discourse, being attentive, understanding our customers' needs, and ultimately implementing them in DryGair.
What are the plans for DryGair in the Future?
I believe the need for more sustainable horticulture will really become the leading force in our industry over the next decade.
Any technology that reduces the inputs needed to grow food, medicine, and other plants will, without a doubt, thrive in this environment. If we're to sustain a growing global population, there's simply no other way than to become more efficient.
I expect to see more and more growers and growing facilities incorporating DryGair, as well as other efficiency-boosting equipment, to improve cultivation and reduce costs.
Do you have any final message for women in horticulture or agri-tech?
If you have a good idea that you believe in, you should follow through with it.
In a world with so many problems, I'm proud to have been able to contribute and to make the world a little better. I'm proud of DryGair and all the benefits it brings, including a greener future for our children. None of this would be possible without the belief in myself to see it through, despite all the challenges along the way.
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