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Mon., Nov. 24
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A true innovator: Richard Chapin helped people grow food in poorest nations

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Richard D. Chapin, who died Friday, was a remarkable man whose inventions fueled by his ingenuity reduced starvation worldwide. Economies in more than 40 countries utilized Mr. Chapin’s irrigation system, which efficiently and parsimoniously distributed a minuscule supply of water directly to crops to ensure proper growth without wasting water from sparse supplies.

Mr. Chapin, who was 96, told the Watertown Daily Times in 1994, “We’ve helped people grow crops to feed the world. Some growers have commented that they couldn’t stay in business without drip irrigation.”

His initial invention was used to more efficiently water plants in his greenhouse where he grew flowers for retail sale through his floral business, Chapin’s Flowers. He then went on to develop 25 patents to enhance his system.

In the poorest countries of the world, food is available because of the technology developed and products built here in Watertown.

In his retirement, as executor director of the Chapin Living Waters Foundation, he distributed thousands of his drip irrigation bucket kits to more than 150 countries, helping farmers produce crops in areas that would otherwise be too dry to sustain life. He traveled extensively, even in his later years, to oversee their implementation.

Mr. Chapin started a business that provided jobs in Watertown and put food in the mouths of underfed people around the globe. His legacy is lasting, and he will be remembered as a world-class citizen who called Watertown home.

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