In every couple of years, an invention comes along that aims to disrupt the system. But while pushing a change against an established industry is an admirable feat, it is no easy task.
Rallying up support for a tool unheard of in the market is definitely a challenge, especially if you are up against industry giants with billions of dollars at their disposal.
Fortunately for Michael Peterson, inventor of the world’s first organic weed-killer, he is dead set on realizing his goal of putting HotZot out there and providing an organic alternative to popular toxic herbicides.
In our recent interview with Michael, he shared about his eureka moment and the fascinating journey that took his idea into a game-changing tool for organic gardeners.
“I’ve always been a “tinkerer” and enjoyed working with my hands. When I watched Bonnie (his wife) spending endless hours doing nothing but weeding, I decided to see if I could invent a tool to make weeding easier.”
Michael recalled that he once saw a neighbor using a pressure jet sprayer to blast the weeds out of the cracks in his walk. While he thought then that the weeds are just going to grow back (they did), he realized that using a hot jet of water instead would do something different.
“While using my espresso machine one morning, I accidentally shot a jet of hot water across the counter and realized that jet of boiling water was exactly what I needed.”
He then narrated how long the process took him from the “aha!” moment to realizing the concept into a prototype.
“That afternoon I bought a half dozen used espresso machines and took them apart to see how they worked and to see if I could reconfigure them to spray weeds. Eventually I hooked up the pump and the boiler at the end of a 1X4 piece of wood and walked out into the garden to test it – and the damned thing worked the first time. Yeah, it looked like the love child of SteamPunk and Rube Goldberg but it killed the weeds with hot water!”
Michael shared that he experienced some minor bumps along the way but nothing he could not overcome.
“After testing my initial prototype against various weeds, moss, testing whether it could edge a lawn (yep, it can), I took it to an engineering firm which built the second prototype which was mounted on a backpack spray tank. It took about 2 months for the engineering to be complete and then I was off to do testing again. That was Prototype #2, we now have Prototype #3 that is handheld and does not require a backpack. We are now on to Prototype #4.”
Michael says he is constantly grateful to all those who supported him in building HotZot.
“Engineers, testers, friends and neighbors – including the next door neighbor who watched me skulk around our backyard with an espresso machine and a loooooong extension cord. When I told him what I was doing, he just laughed and wished me luck.”
In explaining the technology behind HotZot, Michael pointed out that the idea has existed a long time ago but just needed a fresh and modern take to implement it properly.
“Do a web search for “killing weeds with hot water” and you’ll get thousands of hits from gardening sites that essentially say the same thing – hot water does kill weeds. In fact that’s how our great-grandparents killed the weeds in their gardens – after making their morning tea, they’d take the hot water kettle out into the garden and pour it out on the weeds and boil them to death in the ground. We’ve taken the idea that our great-grandparents used and updated it with current technology so that you can have a nearly unlimited amount of boiling water at fingertip control.”
According to Michael, the HotZot has gone through several changes as they tried to improve its design and functionality.
“Our original prototypes used electric heaters and required an extension cord to heat the water and power the pump. Our next generation Zot will use propane to heat the water and use the existing pressure in a garden hose or with a pump powered backpack instead of a pump. This prototype will be ready for testing in late Spring of 2020.”
Michael understands the impact HotZot would bring to gardening and small to medium farming when it finally hits the market.
“We believe that the Zot will be a game changer in exactly the same way the original weed-eater was. There is no other tool that works the way that the Zot does. There are steamers, torches, weeding robots, tools that you hook to your electric drill, tools that electrocute weeds, but the Zot is the only one that works with nothing more than hot water.”
Asked if he thinks Americans are ready to turn their backs against the traditional weed-killing practice of using toxic herbicides, he had this to say:
“Monsanto made a brilliant move in selling Roundup to Bayer and Bayer is now worth less than they paid for Monsanto. Bayer is facing thousands of lawsuits and many billions of dollars in costs to defend or settle the injury cases now being filed in courts across the US. Americans have learned about the environmental damages caused by toxic herbicides as well as the health risks to their friends and families. So the short answer is ‘Yes’.”
In order to take HotZot to the next engineering step and finally to the market Michael’s startup, Weeds Never Sleep LLC is currently raising funds via the Equity Crowdfunding platform TruCrowd. He believes that those who see value in ideas that improve lives for the better would help in realizing such vision.
Addressing his potential investors, Michael said: “It’s not often that life offers you the ability to do good and make money at the same time. Investing in the HotZot is one of those times. Providing an alternative to toxic herbicides for gardeners, landscaping crews, parks and schools, golf courses and lawn care professionals will help keep our environment healthier and our families safer.”
Once ready, his company is planning to license the HotZot technology to a major Lawn and Garden manufacturer, and then pay their investors from the royalties and sales of the Zot.