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Countdown to the Imagine Cup 2015 Begins

Countdown to the Imagine Cup 2015 Begins

The countdown to the Finals of Microsoft’s 13th annual Imagine Cup student startup competition has begun! To be held on July 27-31 in Seattle, USA, the event is the world's premier global student technology programme and competition, providing students across the globe from all disciplines the opportunity to use their creativity, passion and knowledge to create applications, games and integrate solutions that can change the way we live, work and play.

The SmartEcologicalCultivationSystem team of Cyprus’ Frederick University – or S.E.C.S .for short – is to be among just 33 teams to participate in the highly anticipated finals. The local team, comprised of students Iasonas Iasonos, Katerina Prodromou, Peter Chatzichristodoulou and Theodoro Acha, with mentor Christophoros Kronis, has pooled its members’ knowledge together to create an ingenious system for agricultural production. Their product ensures the effective protection of the environment, concurrently providing significant monetary savings to farmers and offering them full remote monitoring of crops. 

In an exclusive interview with Gold News, the team revealed that the product’s concept was inspired by a true story. “Katerina's Uncle Nikos was a professional farmer,” S.E.C.S. explained. ”A few years ago his business was very profitable, however the economic crisis brought many particular challenges: the operational costs of input materials such as water, spray, fertilizer, fuel and more rose significantly and Nikos began to make a loss.” 

Additionally, extreme weather conditions led to further unexpected costs and destroyed many of his plants, and as a result Nikos lost even more money. To make matters worse, he fell ill for a while and, having no one to monitor his crops, lost everything.

“He decided to go to the city to get a new job to feed his family. He wanted to provide fresh produce to his children instead of the city's store-bought fruit and vegetables, which he felt were of a lesser quality. However, Nikos was working day and night, and so his plants were destroyed as no one took care of them.”

Finally, the team came with an idea to help Uncle Nikos and other individuals in his position, as well as protect the environment from various disasters.

Essentially, S.E.C.S. offers a unique mobile application which controls agricultural cultivation – whether in a field or greenhouse – from a remote location in real time. Through this system, anyone maintaining a small or large crop, from a simple gardener to professional farmer, may use sensors and other specialised equipment to manage it economically and ecologically. Through the smartphone app, users may access functions such as irrigation, fertilization and monitoring of their plants’ humidity and temperature.

“The team has a solid and viable business plan, allowing their solution to be attractive to both hobbyist farmers that want to grow their own vegetables, as well as to professional farmers that want to ensure optimized and reliable production,” Ioannis Stavrinides, Developer eXperience Evangelist, Microsoft Cyprus told Gold News.

Their product, he said, is well placed in the market, offering an attractive and affordable package to every individual or business that wishes to use it. “I am confident that they can succeed as a business, providing a solution that is much needed in the specific market that will allow them to grow as a business and have the ability to target additional geographies.”  

This strong product and sound business model took almost one year to complete, S.E.C.S. reveals, though it is continuing its research so as to reinforce the project with extra features.

The simple yet highly effective model of the project means that this agricultural solution may become greatly popular throughout the Mediterranean region and even beyond. In this light, what are the team’s ultimate ambitions for S.E.C.S.? 

“If everything goes well, we will first target Cyprus – because the market it is more familiar and our project research is based on data available for Cyprus. We will then finalize our project and address any errors, following which we will target other Mediterranean islands similar to Cyprus.”

Like previous winners of the Imagine Cup have shown, technology can be a powerful tool for addressing local development challenges, affirmed Jeanette Morwane, director: ICT and services industry at the South African Department of Science and Technology. Among these challenges are those which SECS directly addresses. “We believe that the youth [of the countries participating] can be important partners in this endeavour,” Morwane continued.

"We thank Microsoft for giving us this opportunity to compete at the Imagine Cup and fulfill our dreams!" S.E.C.S. concluded.

Indeed, with the approval of judges at the 2015 Microsoft Imagine Cup finals, S.E.C.S. may soon be available in a store near you!

 

Stay tuned to read our Gold News correspondent's live coverage of the  Microsoft Imagine Cup 2015 competition, straight from Seattle!

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