An Internet of Things startup that helps farmers better manage their crops post-harvest, and a startup that has created a new type of polymer won the grand prize at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Cozad New Venture Challenge this week.
Amber Waves Grain, an agtech company, and Hindered Polyurea Technology (HPT), a polymer company, each won $20,000 plus space in EnterpriseWorks (the UIUC Research Park’s incubator) and legal resources. The two companies beat out four other finalists, 19 semifinalists, and over 120 startups that entered the competition in total.
“It’s quite an honor at a university like this where entrepreneurship is a…principle engaged throughout the university’s activities, ” said Amber Waves Grain founder Lucas Frye, a first year MBA student. “We’re ecstatic to say the least.”
His startup creates wireless sensors that are installed in grain bins, and send updates on moisture and CO2 levels to a farmer’s smartphone. That way farmers can spot potential spoilage in advance, saving them money on ruined crops. Amber Waves Grain also won $1,000 from Dow Agrosciences and a $10,000 investment from Illinois Ventures.
For HPT, founder Manas Gosavi (pictured above, center), a junior studying finance and physics, said winning offered “validation” that they’re on the right track. “It’s a validation of the effort we put in, and more importantly the idea,” he said. “Now we know that this is an idea that people believe in, and are willing to put their money into, so we’re really excited about getting into market and seeing how it changes the industry.
HPT has created recyclable, low-cost sacrificial polymers (polymers that can thermally evaporate) which offers a cheaper, cleaner, and safer material for semiconductors, orthopedic implants, among other uses.
This is the 16th annual Cozad New Venture Competition, but Jed Taylor, director of operations at the Technology Entrepreneurship Center at UIUC said he’s seen the entrepreneurial energy grow significantly in recent years. “It’s grown a lot over the last few years, and I think you’re going to see it grow even more over the next few years,” he said.
Aside from the grand prize winners, over $220,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to the 19 semifinalists at Cozad. Here’s a full list of the winners.
University resource track (startups that used significant university resources)
1st place ($20,000): HPT
2nd place ($10,000): Reconstruct, a startup that uses drones to create 3D modeling for construction management.
3rd place ($5,000): Biowire, a startup that makes cancer screening more efficient.
Non-university resource track:
1st place ($20,000): Amber Waves Grain
2nd place ($10,000): Touchlight Innovation, a startup that harnesses energy from foot traffic.
3rd place ($5,000): Exowear, a startup that is creating a medical wearable device for physical therapy.
Motorola Solutions award ($6,000): Corvae, a startup creating a real-time health monitoring solution.
Energy-specific award ($5,000): Sunbuckets, a startup creating energy solutions for developing countries.
Dow Agrosciences award ($2,500): Amber Waves Grain
Social Innovation award ($1,000): Corvae
Illinois Ventures investment ($10,000): Amber Waves Grain