Student app wins Space Agency competition

An app designed by Computer Science students at the University of Bristol has won a top prize

The FarmIQ app took top honours in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) App Camp, held in Barcelona to find innovative ways to use earth observation data to address some of the world’s greatest challenges. The competition attracted more than 170 participants from 30 nations. 

The Bristol team, made up of Anda Truta, Alex Dantis, Alex Dumitrescu and Julian Laval, created FarmIQ – a crop monitoring and management tool which can analyse data to suggest field optimisation and identify problems before they happen.

Ultimately, they’re hoping to build a platform that will empower farmers from all over the world to improve their yields beyond what they used to think possible. 

In order to reach the week-long app camp and develop their idea further, the Bristol team first needed to win the UK qualifier appathon held at the ESA Business Incubation Centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire. 

They then faced tough competition in Barcelona from teams of students, researchers, and programmers representing Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and Finland. 

The aim of the App Camp is to utilise the wealth of satellite data collected by ESA and the SAP HANA Cloud Platform (a database platform in the cloud which supports apps) to find high-tech ways of supporting the future of agriculture, renewable energy and ecological conservation. 

FarmIQ was deemed to be a winning concept, alongside a team from Finland, and both teams were awarded a €5,000 grand prize at the Mobile World Congress 2015 – the world’s largest annual gathering of the mobile industry and related sectors.  

In addition to the cash prize, the winning Bristol team has earned the opportunity to work with the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre as well as SAP’s Startup Focus Program should they wish to take their idea further.

Team member Julian Laval, in his 2nd year studying Computer Science, said: “Being surrounded by like-minded space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, as well as being able to converse with experts in the field at the drop of a hat was a phenomenal experience. The rush of winning was also rather fantastic.” 

His teammate Alex Dumitrescu added: “Our ambition is to enhance food security and optimize farming on a global scale. On top of providing an unparalleled crop-monitoring experience to farmers using the latest and greatest satellite technologies, we’re looking towards the future and want to be the first to build and deploy predictive monitoring that identifies potential problems before they happen. Certainly not an easy feat, yet an incredible vision that we want to see to fruition.”