CNM Student's Internet of Things Creation Earns Him Innovation Honor

Christian Chavez is part of this year’s Inno Under 25 cohort thanks to his work on a project that aims to modernize farming techniques
September 28, 2021

During his recent Internet of Things bootcamp at CNM Christian Chavez challenged himself to come up with a project that would solve a problem for the local community. Through a collaboration with IBM, he and other IoT students had already built a smart device that monitored water content in the soil, which got him thinking about other devices for the agricultural industry. 

What Christian came up with is a smart device that monitors the temperature in a compost pile. Farmers know that their piles have to reach three temperature benchmarks in order for the microbial process to run efficiently, but they’ve always monitored by hand. Christian realized he could automate the process, allowing farmers to wirelessly monitor the temperature via a smart device that would be inserted into the pile at all times. 

“This device was a perfect opportunity to use what I’d learned in my IoT class and to help solve a problem for local and global farmers,” Christian says.

Christian built a working prototype as a contractor with Technology Solutions Lab—the business wing of CNM Ingenuity—and then went on to found his own startup called ​​Internet Science Innovators (ISI). The device itself got a name—Vital Grow—and Christian was accepted into the ActivateNM business accelerator to help him develop the company and the product.

All of this progress also started earning him recognition in the local tech community, and most recently he was named to the New Mexico Inno Under 25 list that recognizes the state’s most talented innovators who are 25 or younger (Christian is currently 25). 

“I was very grateful to be chosen and being recognized definitely gives legitimacy to the idea and to the product,” he says. 

For now Christian is building his compost devices at home. Once he has a 100 units ready he plans to seed them to local farmers so he can get their feedback and move toward a product that can be mass produced.  

Setting up mass production takes a lot of work so he’s simultaneously trying to track down businesses in China that can help him produce parts including the waterproof housing and the circuit board. His long-term goal is to make Vital Grow a product that can be found at places like Home Depot. With that kind of distribution, both small-scale and large-scale farmers will have access. 

He’s also started work on something he calls a home base. That base would connect to the internet via a cell signal and be located at one central point on a farm. The compost sensor, along with a series of other sensors Christian hopes to develop—soil moisture sensors, weather stations, etc.—would then connect to the home base via radio signals, providing tons of real-time data. All the information from the sensors would then end up on a dashboard that farmers could use to accurately monitor every aspect of their farm.  

“The sky really is the limit,” Christain says. “I’m excited to see where it goes.”