For almost half a century Ed Hunter has had a major impact on the
irrigation industry. He passed on in January of this year and we miss
him. Driven to reach beyond his grasp through a thought process that
cunningly foresaw the future, Edwin J. Hunter will live on through his
creative force. His contributions will stand as a monument to his
I spent some time with Ed Hunter in the late 1970s and '80s. He was a
humble man, quiet and gentle and blessed with a mind beaming with
In 1937 Ed began his industrial career when he teamed up with his
brother, to form a company known as Hunter-Douglas, to manufacture
venetian blinds. In those days the blinds were made of wood. Ed, while
still in his 20s, designed and patented the roll-form machinery used to
make flexible aluminum blinds. The company is still in business today.
"Thought I'd take a years' vacation after that job." Ed once related to
me, "I had been working for the company for 16 years, 15 hours a day,
seven days a week." That never happened.
A neighbor had obtained a patent for a tensiometer which automatically
controlled irrigation. Whenever he had a problem he kept going to Ed for
help. Ed was quite frank about his limited knowledge of irrigation. "I
didn't know anything about the irrigation business, and to complicate
matters further, I didn't realize I was lacking in this knowledge. I
soon took it on as a hobby," Ed told me.
The hobby soon became a business when, in 1952 Ed formed a company
called Moist-O-Matic. He began to market a six-station controller and
valves which employed the use of the tensiometer which was eventually
withdrawn. However, Ed was established in the irrigation business.
In 1957, plastic sprinkler heads were unknown in the irrigation
business. The first plastic sprinkler head manufactured by Moist-O-Matic
made a stunning impact in the field. "By merely using a new material as
a substitute to make the same product, the best you can come up with is
a cheap substitute," explained Ed. "But, if you design a product around
the inherent qualities and features of the material, you can develop a
different and superior product."
Ed then began work on a gear-driven sprinkler, and in 1960 he released a
gear-driven pop-up sprinkler. In 1962, Ed sold the company to Toro,
with the understanding that he would stay on for a period of three
years. That relationship lasted 18 years. During that time, Ed pioneered
plastic valves, valve-in-head golf course sprinklers and the stream
In 1981, after 20 years with the company, Toro encouraged Hunter to
retire. Ed felt he was at the height of his creative talents. He
believed new markets existed for more sophisticated water-efficient gear
drives and controllers. "I'm too young to retire and too old to switch
careers," he quipped.
Hunter Industries, the brainchild of Ed Hunter built a new innovative
assembly production line in a brand new facility to introduce a new line
of sprinklers. The irrigation world waited for him to open his doors.
When they did open, it was like a flood. The rest is history. Hunter
Industries, it seems overnight, took its place as one of the leaders in
the irrigation industry.
Ed Hunter was truly a pioneer in the industry. His contributions to the
landscape irrigation industry were precursors of a technical and
marketing revolution. His innovative products made automatic landscape
irrigation more affordable and efficient, and an important part of the
20th century American landscape. It will be a long time before another
Ed Hunter passes this way again. His legacy and his name will live on
for generations to come.
To me,Ed Hunter was much more, he was a warm, caring human being. I
shall remember him with reverence.