Written by The Business Journal Staff
Business of Deerpoint Group is “blooming” for the first company to move into Madera’s new Freedom Industrial Park.
Recent growth has been “explosive,” according to Sean Mahoney, CEO of Deerpoint Group (DPG), who plans to hire more than a dozen new employees as farmers embrace the company’s “fertigation” and water treatment solutions.
DPG relocated from Fresno into its new 48,000-square-foot headquarters in Madera in April and has already expanded to occupy more than 80 percent of its new office, lab and warehouse space. With 70 field service techs, chemists, lab techs and engineers now working at its Madera facility, Mahoney said this week that he is looking to hire 15 more employees by the end of the year.
“Moving to Madera has given us a big boost in customer awareness,” Mahoney said. “The ability to provide site tours of our new facility has given us a leg up as visitors are able to see the materials we make, the unique process we engage in and who we are behind the scenes.”
DPG’s new 12-acre corporate headquarters includes manufacturing, tank storage and warehousing facilities as well as a state-of-the-art R&D lab.
Deborah Miller, a veteran chemist who also has an MBA, is the company’s president. An Ohio native, she originally came to the Valley to work with Gallo Wineries in its wine fining applications. (Wine fining is the technical process used to clarify wine.)
Miller, who refers to herself as both “a farm girl” and Deerpoint’s “founding mother,” started the company in 1993. Her husband John, co-owner, and a Ph.D. research chemist, is DPG’s vice president. Earlier in his career, John Miller was part of the team that worked on chemical monitoring equipment for space exploration.
Married for 38 years — and business partners for more than two decades — the Millers first met when both worked at a large mid-western chemical company called Nalco. Deerpoint Group is actually named for the street the Millers once lived on in Chicago.
Today, Deborah focuses on the company’s field operations and expanding its customer base while John, who holds more than three dozen patents, concentrates on developing new fertilizer technologies.
“What we excel at is solving problems,” Deborah Miller said. “The company started out focusing on water treatment and we discovered that the precision approach we take in treating water is perfectly adaptable to fertilization” — hence the term “fertigation,” which is the injection of fertilizers through an irrigation system.
“In recent years, there’s been tremendous interest in developing alternative methods to precisely feed fertilizers,” said Mahoney, who ran his own financial consulting firm before joining Deerpoint nearly four years ago as its chief executive.
“With nut prices lower, growers understand they need to precision feed,” Mahoney added. “It makes absolutely no sense to dump a month’s worth of fertilizer into the ground at one time. If a person tried to eat 30 days worth of food at one time, they wouldn’t feel too good either.”
Even with commodity prices trending lower, Mahoney and the Millers expect Deerpoint’s growth spurt to continue as growers tune in to the benefits of DPG’s proprietary products and unique delivery system.
DPG’s customer base already includes a wide range of growers and crops throughout California and Arizona, who receive frequently emailed reports analyzing the process and performance of DPG’s field programs, including crop tissue and soil reports.
“Up to now, we’ve done very little advertising,” Mahoney said. Much of the increase in business, he added, “is just neighbor telling neighbor telling neighbor” about their increased yields using the Deerpoint products.
“We’ve gotten pretty comfortable owning the results,” Mahoney added, “because they have been stellar.”
Stephen Perez, owner of Perez Farms in Stanislaus County, has been a DPG customer for a year now.
“Our yields are way up and the longer we’re on their system, the better our trees look,” said Perez, who grows almonds and tomatoes.
DPG offers a variety of options to suit customer needs — everything from irrigation water treatment programs, to specialty continuous fertilizer programs tailored for each customer’s field, to custom-blended fertilizers for grower application.
At the heart of the DPG’s continuous fertigation system is a patented, precision-feeding apparatus customers have nicknamed “the white box.” Installed on site — and owned by DPG — the white box acts as a fertilizer plant that enables Deerpoint’s field techs to inject highly specialized nutrient and micronutrient blends directly into the grower’s irrigation system — “the proper nutrients in every drop of water,” according to Mahoney.
Because conventional fertilizers tend to clog drip irrigation systems, Mahoney said DPG’s more than 30 specialty products are all liquid and include micronutrients, foliars and blends.
“We’re growing trees essentially hydroponically,” John Miller said. “I design every formulation so every bit of it can be utilized. There are no chlorides, no sulfates. None of our products contain ancillary materials that are toxic to the soil or crops.”
With revenues increasing exponentially, Mahoney said the company has future plans to add a 22-car rail spur in the future as well as additional structures for a total facility capacity of 100,000 square feet.
Madera-based Span Construction served as the general contractor on the company’s new corporate center, the first building to go up in the new industrial park, which will eventually include nearly 1 million square feet, according to Bobby Kahn, executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission, which worked with county and city officials to help pave the way for Deerpoint’s relocation to Madera.
The EDC was originally connected with Deerpoint through a local commercial real estate broker, Kahn said.
“Deerpoint had outgrown their Fresno facility and they were originally looking at a different site [in Madera],” Kahn said. “When that [site] didn’t fit their needs, we talked to them about the possibility of relocating [to the new industrial park] and they are very receptive. They ended up buying extra property there because they know they are going to be expanding more in the next few years and they didn’t want to get trapped like they did in their previous location.”
Stephen Perez, who already has six of DPG’s white boxes operating in his fields and orchards, said he plans to add at least one or two more in the coming season.
“DPG’s results speak for themselves,” Perez said. “I’m a big fan.”