Growing up in Cache Valley, Jacob Harris faced a problem that most farmers today have to confront — knowing when, exactly, to water crops.
He’s been working on a solution that has taken three years, four prototypes and more effort than the graduate student ever thought it would take. And it all paid off: Last weekend Harris won the U’s Opportunity Quest business competition.
His product, SenseTech, records soil, air, temperature and moisture data through six solar-powered sensors that, when combined, provide information for optimal watering. This feedback can transform farms, golf courses and parks, changing the way water is used in our society.
“It’s meant to be profitable,” said Harris, a mechanical engineering graduate student, “but more so to change the world.”
SenseTech won the grand prize at Opportunity Quest, taking home a $5,000 grant from Zions Bank, free photography for the product and connections with industry professionals that judged the competition.
Harris competed against other companies, such as Aura Optics, the second-place snow goggle startup, and Peke-Buo, the third-place company that created a bag to streamline changing diapers.
Students competed for two weeks, working with mentors in preparation to pitch their business summaries to a panel of judges. Each top-10 winning company at Opportunity Quest took home $2,000 of “in-kind” prizes.
“It allows [students] the opportunity to practice what they are learning in the classroom setting,” said Thad Kelling, spokesperson for the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and supervisor for Opportunity Quest.
Harris plans on using the prize money to grow SenseTech and its website, as well as expand its upcoming beta test in May. Opportunity Quest winners also move on to the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge where they compete against startup companies from across the state for $40,000 in funding.