Feed the World

More for less, food that is, thanks to automated farming technology

Feed the World

Imagine growing more food in less space and with less water. Imagine the quality of soil, labor, and climate have no impact on harvests. It’s not science fiction. It’s the brainchild of mechanical engineering alumnus Sam Bertram ’16 (and M.S. imminent) and his brother, John, in the form of their company OnePointOne. For his graduate capstone, Bertram created, designed, and prototyped an automated indoor farm, where plants suspended in air are regularly misted with water and nutrients—growing more with less space and water. The system uses advanced robotics, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. The company has been incubating in Santa Clara University’s EdVenture Lab. “Others are working to figure out how to optimize outdoor farming, but with exploding populations and an increased prevalence of environmental malaise, we believe indoor, vertical farming has tremendous potential for good,” says Bertram. Born and raised in Australia, Bertram came to SCU on a tennis scholarship. Off the court, he jumped into the mechanical engineering program despite not having taken any math, physics, or engineering courses. Technical skill sets and an entrepreneurial mindset were key components to launching a startup, but the brothers also wanted to apply their know-how toward something socially valuable. “My goal in coming to the United States,” he says, “was to contribute as much as I can to society and learn as much as I can in the shortest amount of time possible.” To date, the startup has $330,000 invested and $1.3 million committed out of its $1.7 million initial round of funding.

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