University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2001 - $11,600
The Fluent Systems E-Team received funding to develop a wireless NH3 monitor to help farmers apply ammonia nitrate fertilizer to fields more efficiently. US farmers annually apply fifteen million tons of anhydrous ammonia to their crops using a field tractor and an implement to pull a large tank, creating a long, train-like configuration of machinery. Partly because of this configuration, tractor drivers can’t see the tank fluid level, so they must periodically stop application to read the tank’s levels.
Fluent’s NH3 monitor solves the problem with a two-module system composed of a tank module that sits atop the field tank and a display module within the tractor cab. The tank module continuously monitors fluid levels and communicates them to the cab using wireless technology. The cab module allows the farmer to track how much product is in the tank without getting out of the tractor to check the tank gauge.
The product sold well in its first year of commercial availability, but Fluent’s big news came in late 2004, when Raven Industries LLC acquired the company for $1 million. Raven, a diversified manufacturer of plastics, electronics and special apparel products, bought Fluent to help grow its Flow Controls Division.
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