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prototype testing the HotZot all-natural herbicide-free weed killer

Michael and Lisa test the prototype

Once again, CreatID has guided someone’s great idea to fruition. The HotZot now on Kickstarter, is an all-natural weed killing tool that doesn’t use herbicides!

“We would not have made it this far without the expertise and experience of the engineers who’ve taken a rough idea and made it into a viable product. Dennis Veatch of CreatID was responsible for taking the ‘Zot from a boiler on the end of a 1×4 to a design that could be mounted on a gardener’s backpack tank.” – Michael Peterson, HotZot

Testing hot water delivery

The challenge:

Safely and instantly bring water from an ambient temperature to a controlled stream of 190° F water at the push of a button in a functional prototype.

The solution:

The solution involved an exciting cocktail of heater, electronics, ergonomics, lots of know-how, a modest amount of cursing, and a heaping helping of ingenuity.

Michael Peterson of HotZot launched his kickstarter campaign after enlisting CreatID for help figuring out his weed killer concept. The challenges included the ergonomics of carrying water, heating to 190° on demand safely and efficiently, and delivering an attractive and functional tool easily used by gardeners everywhere. The HotZot has a powered applicator wand that’s sleek and functional, preventing the need to kneel and bend over while weeding.

Over the course of the project, CreatID provided a range of services and solutions:

  1. We sourced, verified and tested a number of electrical switches, pump mechanisms and components.
  2. Sourced and coordinated a number of specialized vendors.
  3. Designed and built a functional prototype to prove and lock in the products infrastructure.
  4. Provided HotZot’s patent attorneys with with illustrations.
  5. Built the self-contained prototype backpack version of Michael’s hot water weed killer.
  6. Refined the applied technology, enabling a number of different products in the product line: including a hand-held version and a line of autonomous commercial golf cart-powered devices to come.

Production-ready assembly instructions

Excerpts from our client interview:

Micheal, what inspired you to start and create the HotZot?

Watching my wife trudge resolutely out into her garden for 3-4 hours a week to weed.  It took a lot of the joy out of gardening for her. There had to be a way to make it easier.

When and why did you reach out to CreatID for help?Pump unit

CreatID’s combination of design and engineering skills offered the help I needed to address immediate issues.  I knew that the concept would work, but had no idea of how to massage the creative process into a functioning prototype.

What obstacles did you face in your development process?

People telling me it wouldn’t work. Or that it would be too dangerous.

The patenting process and dealing with a patent examiner—we had to modify and resubmit our claims SEVEN TIMES.

Finding components better suited to our design intent.  We started out with a standard espresso machine thermal block heater and pump. It was slow, heavy and inefficient.  We sourced a very light pump and an even lighter and smaller heater.”

You chose to go another direction with your original concept of the backpack version, tell us about that decision making process.

We received a lot of negative feedback regarding the weight of the backpack when filled with water (around 30 lbs).  While that might be OK for a landscape crewmember to lug around, it was too heavy for general weeding. We will return to the backpack model for commercial applications, but for our residential models, the 5 lb. hand-held unit was more highly-rated by our testers.

You are now launching a Kickstarter campaign, how is that experience different and what are the challenges? What have you learned so far?

To be fair, the Kickstarter campaign is more or less like the frosting on a cake.  What really took time, energy and effort was the business backend that had to be in place before starting the campaign.  Extensive spreadsheet budgets, business plans, marketing plans, lawyers, Gantt charts, Facebook promotions—the list goes on and on and on—and all of it needs to be done simultaneously. You have to be good at project management and juggling active tasks.

If you had to give an elevator speech to yourself at the beginning of this process, what would it be?

  • Don’t underestimate the commitment it’s going to take to bring your project to the finish line.  You’ll be stressed for time, confidence, money and relationships. Know that you’re going to make mistakes and don’t let them drag you down.
  • Successes will be incremental and will lead to new challenges.
  • Always have a plan B simmering on a back burner.  When plan A hits a pothole, fire up B and keep working.  Both plans need to be live and viable.
  • Japanese proverb – “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”  If the process was easy, everyone would do it.
  • It will help tremendously if you have a passionate commitment to your project – mine is sustainability and environmental health.

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