Irrigation startup wins Sontag prize
A startup that’s developing cloud-based systems to improve the efficiency of flood irrigation systems won $50,000 in the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The winning company, Irrigo, uses flood-gate automation, field surveys, and water and soil sensors to model the most efficient way to irrigate a field. Team leader Brian Blair said Irrigo plans to lease its service, pitching farmers on savings in labor costs and potential for a 20 percent reduction in water use.
The $50,000 prize is supported by a $1 million endowment created by a gift from UNR alumnus Rick Sontag.
The $5,000 second-place award in the competition went to Wasted Eyewear, a company created by UNR freshman Julian Sander. He plans to make sunglasses out of recycled and reused material, mainly old snowboards.
Twenty-four student teams submitted full business plans into the competition. In December, seven were selected as finalists and given $1,000 to validate their business model or product.
Last year’s winner, EscaZyme Biochemicals, is commercializing a discovery of enzymes in bark beetles from trees in the Lake Tahoe area that have the potential to be used for a wide range of products, including pesticides.
It has landed several contracts with forest service companies and is working to develop a skin care line using that same enzyme, said Dave Croasdell, the Charles and Ruth Hopping professor of entrepreneurship at UNR and Sontag Entrepreneurship competition director.
The cuts would come as a direct result of reduced tax collections caused by business closures across the Silver State due to the COVID-19 pandemic.