Clemson alumnus wins $10,000 for farm efficiency app
CLEMSON – The knowledge Spencer McLeod acquired during his years at Clemson University and experience he gained working on his family’s farm in McBee sparked him to create a mobile app he hopes will soon help increase farm efficiency.
The app, AgriLinx, was built to help farmers keep track of activities on their farms. It earned McLeod the $10,000 top prize in Clemson University’s 5th Annual Pitch Smackdown hosted by the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership in early November.
“Profitability in the agriculture industry is being driven more and more by efficiency,” McLeod said. “Ultimately, AgriLinx focuses on making operations efficient.”
McLeod graduated from Clemson with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural mechanization and business in 2012, and a master’s degree in business administration in 2014. After completing his degrees, McLeod returned to work on his family’s 7,500-acre farm. He began working on the AgriLinx app in April 2017 and started testing the system in May of 2017. Currently, the app allows users to view and control irrigation management, track equipment and track labor.
The system includes a LORA network, or low-power, wide-area wireless technology, that collects data from remote devices called nodes. These nodes have Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities and can connect to a new cellular technology from Verizon called LTE Cat M1. The nodes can be placed strategically around a farmer’s field to collect and store data for irrigation management, equipment tracking and labor tracking, allowing farmers to make more informed operational decisions.
McLeod hopes the app will help farmers determine the best times irrigate their crops. By using precision irrigation, over-irrigation is reduced and yields are increased because water is applied only when needed. The AgriLinx platform exists in the cloud where the data is stored. This system could be available to a small number of farms in January 2019.
McLeod said the education and experiences he gained while at Clemson proved valuable in helping him develop Agrilinx and win the Pitch Smackdown.
“The network of people that I was able to develop and continue to develop at Clemson has been an immense resource to drive this venture,” McLeod said. “My undergraduate studies gave me the problem-solving and analytical skills to develop the idea and work through the technical obstacles. The MBA program allowed me to form this unique idea into a viable business model.”
Matthew Klein, a lecturer for the Clemson MBA program and a judge for the Smackdown, said it was a compilation of several things that drove McLeod to win this year’s competition. Klein taught McLeod while he was a student in the master’s program.
“Spencer grew up on a farm so he knows the industry,” Klein said. “What set his project apart was that he installed this system on his own farm and was able to show how his farm benefitted from having this system. His system also was attractive because all users have to do is ‘plug and play’. Users can keep their data. They don’t have to worry about proprietary claims and things such as that.”
McLeod plans to use the money he won from the 2018 Pitch Smackdown to finalize development and purchase inventory.
The Clemson Pitch Smackdown is held annually for Clemson students, faculty and alumni. Individuals, as well as teams register for an opportunity to pitch their ideas. These ideas can be anything from a concept to a fully developed product. The 2018 Pitch Smackdown drew more than 40 entries of which 20 entrepreneurs were selected to pitch their start-ups with hopes of winning some of the more than $30,000 in cash prizes. Those competing in the final round were required to conduct a 4-minute presentation, followed by a 6-minute question and answer session. The estimated time of completion for each entry was 3 to 5 minutes. Other winners of the 2018 Clemson Pitch Smackdown can be found here: http://bit.ly/2018PSW
The Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership is a Clemson University program that supports academic research and service programs involving students and faculty from all colleges on campus. Spiro IFEL extends the work of the university to the community through project-based activities with inventors, entrepreneurs, and established companies representing an entrepreneurial spirit on the Clemson University campus.