Firm uses Kickstarter to bring water-sensor system to market

CHAMPAIGN — Local business start-up Oso Technologies has turned to the Kickstarter "crowdfunding" website in hopes of raising $75,000.

That money would help the company make sensors that tell people when their plants need watering.

The Champaign-based company was started in 2011 by five University of Illinois graduate students.

The company launched its fundraising campaign Friday, and as of Monday afternoon it had pledges for $34,286 — or nearly 46 percent of its goal. Here's the Kickstarter page.

Oso Technologies, based in the EnterpriseWorks business incubator in the University of Illinois Research Park, wants to bring Plant Link — its home garden water-sensor system — to market.

The system consists of a base station that plugs into an Internet connection, plus wireless "links" that measure soil moisture around a plant.

When it's time to water the plant, the "links" send signals to computers and smart phones through the base station.

Watering messages are sent to the customer's home phone or laptop through means including text message and email.

The system has information on how much water is needed for 300 types of plants.

Oso Technologies has also developed an add-on product, a smart valve that can water outdoor plants automatically when water levels are low.

The company's Kickstarter campaign continues through Feb. 3. Users can pledge as little as a dollar, but incentives are given for larger pledges.

According to a release from the UI College of Engineering, the amount raised through the Kickstarter campaign will help move one of the team members from part-time to full-time, assist with more testing and pay for the first production run.

In a release from the company, CEO Eduardo Torrealba said he got the idea for the product when he and his wife wanted to determine when their basil plant needed watering.

But Torrealba couldn't find a product that would give him continuous updates on soil moisture levels.

Other Oso team members are Austin Lyons, Bradley Sanders, Trevor Hutchins and Michael Clemenson.

Lyons and Sanders have completed master's degrees from the UI, while the other three remain in school at the UI, pursuing either master's or doctoral degrees.

Oso is Spanish for "bear." Four of the five team members did undergraduate work at Baylor University, whose athletic teams are known as the Bears.

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shurstrike wrote on January 08, 2013 at 8:01 am

Could you provide a link to their Kickstarter page?

Mike Howie wrote on January 08, 2013 at 9:01 am
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Thanks; we should have thought of that. It's now added to the story, but also here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1387729422/plant-link-listen-to-your-plants