The Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) has awarded a $25,000 Phase 1A grant to the University of Georgia (UGA) that will go to the research and development efforts of Reservoir, an Athens-based startup in the Advanced Technology Development Center’s ATDC Accelerate program.
Reservoir, founded by Jesse Lafian in 2016, is developing a patent-pending sensor designed to improve irrigation efficiency. The company is initially targeting landscape contractors, who will be able to monitor soil moisture by logging into a website rather than driving to a job site. The grant will go toward further sensor development efforts.
GRA helps expand research and commercialization capacity in Georgia’s universities through seeding new companies, among other efforts,
“One of the reasons I’m excited about getting this grant is that it validates that there is a need for this technology in the market. GRA reviews proposals internally and also gets feedback from industry professionals before making a funding decision,” said Lafian, who graduated from UGA in 2017 with a degree in horticulture.
Soil moisture is critical in landscaping because overwatering can kill trees, which costs landscapers in time and money to remove and replace the dead or diseased plants.
The company is working with Marc van Iersel, a horticulture professor at UGA. That relationship factored into GRA’s grant decision.
“Reservoir is addressing a relevant need in the landscaping industry,” said Lee Herron, GRA’s vice president of venture development. “GRA has a track record in working with Marc van Iersel and he will play a critical role in helping the company reach critical milestones.”
The grant is the latest milestone for Reservoir, which is in negotiations with a Georgia-based angel investment group. In July of 2017, Reservoir won $5,000 from the UGA Summer Launch Program and another $10,000 from UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur competition in March 2017.
Lafian began working with Jim Flannery the startup catalyst who manages the ATDC @ Athens program in 2016 after the company participated in the UGA Idea Accelerator. That program is organized by Athens economic development nonprofit Four Athens, in partnership with ATDC and the University of Georgia Entrepreneurship Program,
“Reservoir’s recent GRA grant is a testament to the hard work which Jesse has put into building his company since refining his concept in the Idea Accelerator in the fall of 2016,” Flannery said. “He is just one example of the caliber of entrepreneurs in Athens’ technology ecosystem that we at ATDC and our partners seek to help take their transformative ideas to create sustainable companies.”