Photo: Chemmat PhD Candidate, Misagh Ebrahimpour
Each year, the Velocity Innovation Challenge is held to encourage the University’s staff and students to share venture ideas to solve problems. The Faculty of Engineering is well represented in 2019’s list of 40 $1,000 prizewinners, with over 15 groups ranging from undergraduate students to academic staff across our different departments.
Chemmat PhD candidate, Misagh Ebrahimpour talks about his Velocity experience and winning the Agritech Prize for Remote Agriculture Optimisation:
This is our first time participating in Velocity and we found the new experience to be very valuable. We’re learning how the business and marketing sides of solutions are important, and got to connect with people involved in successful start-ups, which is very useful.
Our idea addresses the problem of irrigation management – the over and under-watering of crops are the main reasons for under-profiting. The solution gives optimum irrigation decisions, which will increase profit by maximising yield and minimising water consumption. We see water management as a global issue that’s becoming increasingly important in recent years due to the effects of climate change. In New Zealand, it’s led to more draughts, less rain in Eastern regions, and more rainfall in Western regions. We want to mitigate these effects and address the food and water supply for our growing population.
I met my team when I was studying my masters at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Since then, we have been collaborating in different projects related to the optimisation of processes. We’ve been working on applying optimisation techniques to irrigation management for the past two years, but this really started many years ago for me when I was farming in my family garden in Iran. It was located far from my hometown, so I designed and implemented an automatic system rather than going there for irrigation frequently. After that basic framework, I have been thinking about how its performance can be improved.
My contribution to the project as a chemical engineer is in the optimisation and advanced control of chemical processes. I studied the real-time optimisation of refining processes during my master and my PhD applies this to dairy. This project was very motivating for us as our idea was chosen by experts in agriculture science and technology. Now our objective is to develop our idea further and implement it.
Read about the other Faculty of Engineering winners here