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Meet The Team Turning Grocery Store Roofs Into The Modern Farm

by Klaire Wesolowski

When we first met Alex Weiss and Ruwan Subasinghe at Georgia Tech’s Ideas to Serve competition, they had created a hydroponic planting container to eliminate the need for refrigeration during transport of produce to grocery stores. Now, they are eliminating the need for produce transportation entirely.

The days of wilted kale will soon be over. 

Their solution is simple: grow the produce on the roof of the grocery stores. This gives the stores more control over what they stock, allows them to have hyper local produce, and Alex & Ruwan’s planting container does the lion’s share of the work. They’ve already set up partnerships with Sevananda Market and PeachDish, a local dinner-in-a-box subscription service.

Check out more on these modern farmers below and remember them when they become tech all-stars.

Alex Weiss

What are you currently working on outside of class?
I have a habit of working on way too many projects. Until recently I was working on a flow meter to be used in delivery trucks to keep track of gas that actually goes into the tank to prevent gas theft. I’m also working with Sanguina, which is the company that came out of AnemoCheck, to build their mobile app. In addition I’m working on a device that automatically inserts ear tubes without the need for general anesthesia, which has became my senior design project.

What tech/tools are essential to you?
The first thing that comes to mind is definitely my phone. It just has everything. Earlier today I found out that my final report for senior design was due, wrote a portion of the 20 page report, and helped my friend drive back to Tech from Athens with just my phone.

What are your best technical or creative skills?
My favorite project is one that allows me to use many skills. When I was working on the flow meter for delivery trucks I had to design load cells using FEA, prototyping, and electronics and then some simple programming. Being able to use these skills together is a valuable skill.

What’s next on your list to learn?
Definitely plant biology. Trying to solve the produce procurement problem without a better understanding of plant biology is an impossibility.

Post graduation plans?
I’m participating in Startup Summer to work on the produce growing project. If all goes well, or even if enough goes well, I’ll be working for myself forever.

Ruwan Subasinghe

What startup/tech projects have you worked on?
I worked as a hardware engineer on a 3-man team at Intuitive Pickups, a startup based in Atlanta. Intuitive Pickups has created a new acoustic guitar amplification technology, and I built most of the mechanical and electrical hardware for our first prototype.

What tech/tools are essential to you?
1. CAD. I’m terrible at sketching by hand, but I’ve become very comfortable drawing in 3D. The ability to draw a model, analyze it, and rapid prototype it from the same software definitely speeds up product development.

2. Keyshot, a rendering software. Sometimes seeing is believing, and hyper-realistic renderings of a concept can really help customers and colleagues imagine it existing in the real world before spending the money to create prototypes.

What are your best technical or creative skills?
One of my best technical skills is using finite element analysis to see how a part or assembly of parts will behave before actually creating it. This technique is invaluable for startups and small companies because it can often eliminate the first few prototyping iterations, getting to the finalized design much faster.

When it is time to bring a part into reality, my experience working at a machine shop has taught me there’s infinitely many ways a part can be produced. Creative manufacturing techniques can often deliver a better and lower cost finished product. When I’m not using my fabrication skills in my work, I enjoy applying them to create custom motorcycle parts.

What’s next on your list to learn?
We’ll be producing large quantities of produce packaging, which has me reading up on mold design. Thankfully Georgia Tech has the tools I need to create injection and thermoforming molds, so I can learn the way I learn best: by giving it a try.

[Photo Credit]

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