Alfredo Costilla had a vision: He wanted to provide an educational tool for teachers and parents to educate kids about the world of agriculture.
The Texas A&M Ph.D. candidate developed BitGrange, a process that uses hydroponics and technology to connect elementary school students with the science of agriculture.
Hydroponics involves growing plants without soil, generally by adding nutrients to the water they grow in, according to the BitGrange team.
Costilla grew up in a family of farmers and volunteered with elementary school students, which is how he came up with the idea for BitGrange.
These kids represent a new generation of farmers and entrepreneurs, Costilla said. “We are a new generation of food consumers that can also be food producers,” he added.
Costilla’s BitGrange team is composed of students in a variety of majors, ranging from computer science and engineering, to electrical engineering. He says he thinks that the best ideas come from assembling a diverse team to work on a project.
“Most of your group projects, they’re mainly in your class,” said team member Brandon Neff, a computer engineering major. “Those people are in the same major as you. So this is like the first big project I’ve worked on with a lot more diversity and background.”
Electrical engineering major Marco Farias says he hopes BitGrange will go beyond its interaction with elementary school students. “It’s seeing beyond that and thinking that we’re also able to help future problems like lack of food and scarce resources to feed humankind,” he said.
Costilla said his long-term goal is “to see the largest farm that doesn’t own a single square inch of land.” He wants a user-generated way to produce plants, a concept he says is similar to that of Facebook or Uber.
“It could work. It could not. But definitely I believe that great achievements happen at the edge of uncertainty,” Farias said. “So this is a bet. I’m in with Alfredo and this team to make it work.”