Congratulations to Team HydroFarm for winning the 2021 GIX Innovation Competition. Now in its fourth year, the GIX Innovation Competition aims to spur innovative and inclusive solutions to global challenges. This year’s competition, sponsored by Microsoft FarmBeats, the UW MS in Technology Innovation Program, and the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, sought original, technologically inventive projects in areas such as the internet of things, intelligent hardware, low-cost sensors, drones, robotics, computer vision and machine learning algorithms, and cloud computing to help address farming challenges.
The winning team, which includes MSTI students Guanting Li, Wesley Muthemba, and Germaine Ng, will split $5,000 cash and $5,000 in Microsoft Azure credits. Noting that more than 70% of the world’s fresh water usage goes towards irrigation, and 40% of that water is lost to the environment, HydroFarm created a hardware/software solution that improves water usage efficiency, targeting its application to urban farming. The team’s solution aims to reduce water waste, lower farming costs, and increase peace of mind for farmers and growers. The system monitors soil conditions, weather, and other environmental factors to inform users of their plants’ water needs and provides a more efficient irrigation schedule. This results in lower total water usage, increased and more predictable crop yields, and a lower impact on the environment. Judges were impressed by their consideration of commercial needs, user-testing, and validation.
Second prize ($2500 and $2500 in Azure credits) was awarded to UW ECE students and alumni Lawrence Atienza, Aziz Lakhdar, Mark Lattimer II, Anatoliy Martynyuk, and Matthew Trahms. Team MicroPlant’s automated plant moisture monitoring, reporting, and control system uses local sensors and a remote web app to give hobbyists, nurseries, and farmers more insight and control over the level of water their plants receive. The system allows remote users to view metrics including soil moisture or light, with the ability to control additional lamps or irrigation, manually or automatically using pre-defined parameters. Looking ahead, the team plans to reduce per-unit cost to be more competitive on the market.
The teams presented virtually to a panel of six judges, including Peeyush Kumar, Senior Research Scientist at Microsoft, Riyaz Pishori, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, Stacey Wood, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, Mara Rocha, Customer Experience Manager at Bayer, Barney Debnam, Director of Agrobusiness at Microsoft, and Jie Hui, Manager of Device Intelligence at and Analytics at T-Mobile.
This year’s winners were selected through two rounds of review from more than 60 submissions from 14 countries. Projects were judged on a variety of categories, including how clearly the problem and solution were defined, affordability and global impact of the proposed solution, and quality of presentation.