It was a seemingly innocuous conversation. Several years ago, Ryan Edkins was driving around with his father on a rainy day when they saw an outdoor sprinkler system going off at an office complex. The two commented about how it was a waste of water.
Several years later, Edkins reflected on that conversation when considering a business plan for an entrepreneurship class at the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering. Edkins came up with a plan to sell a moisture detection system that links to a phone to alert someone when to water their plants.
“It’s really environmentally friendly,” the 16-year-old said. “I’m trying to make this product so people only water their plants when they need to.”
To his surprise, the product — Moist-True — has been a big hit. Edkins, whose plan placed first in his class and at a state competition at the University of Connecticut, recently captured the top prize at the New York Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Edkins will next compete in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in October.
“I wasn’t expecting to win at all,” he said.
Edkins stood out in the competition by combining his interests in business and engineering. The Wilton resident was drawn to AITE for its engineering program, but his father suggested he explore accounting and entrepreneur classes.
Unlike some of his competitors, Edkins has made a prototype for his product with the help of about 30 hours of research on YouTube and online forums. The device, housed in an old candy mints tin, has two prongs that are placed in the soil of the plants and a solar panel that submits data from the dirt to a computer where the owner can monitor when it needs to be watered.
Edkins is working to assemble a final product, which includes a plant tracking app, before the national competition in October. He’s also hoping to perform a live demonstration of the product at the event.
Along the way, the rising senior said he’s learned a few tips and tricks beyond engineering. He’s also learned how to pitch a business.
“One of the most important things about pitching an idea is making sure the idea solves a problem or a need,” he said. “People have a lot of good ideas, but they don’t make for a good business because they haven’t thought of every expense.”