Four days of implementation of ideas, teamwork and challenges facing Colombian agriculture occurred in the second version of the Makeathon Colombia. The event held between July 31 and August 3, at the Universidad de los Andes, with the participation of 42 students from different disciplines and universities.
The Makeathon was not a competition: it was a window for students from different related careers to interact and mix their knowledge with a common goal: improve potato cultivation in Colombia. In this new version, different workshops, activities and a guided field trip to the town of Sibaté (Cundinamarca) were held. There, the cultivation practices were analyzed allowing the contextualization of the challenges to be developed.
The jury was made up of representatives from Fedepapa, BSmart, Corpo Agroredes Colombia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies. They gave feedback to make the students’ innovative ideas more practices. Examples of these were a robot to optimize the soil management and the harvesting, market ideas around the potato, a fumigation automatic device, among others.
“I think it’s great that the youth and students are linking so directly to the development and improvement of the quality of agricultural production,” said César Sánchez, one of the jurors and president of Corpo Agroredes Colombia, a non-profit organization that it shelters the small producers of the country. He also stressed the importance of using technological advances for the benefit of peasant communities in the country.
Agriculture in Colombia is a subject that is constantly changing and needs contributions from different backgrounds in order to progress. One of them is the academy through these activities that encourage the creation process. “It’s a four day event since you need to reach a quick solution. We are in times of fast changes and students need to be trained in this,” says Giacomo Barbieri, professor and researcher at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Universidad de los Andes.
The event was originally carried out by the company Dr. Stetter ITQ in order to provide solutions to specific problems through technological advances. Following this model, Professor Barbieri organized a Colombian version adjusting the event to the Colombian needs and had agriculture as the main protagonist. Barbieri added: “With respect to the last year, the ideas are more focused and have the potential to be transformed into a product that can improve agricultural practices.”
“Maybe the most difficult challenge was to manage the short time and get the materials since the distributors were limited. However, these challenges made us more creative than was one of the objectives of the Makeathon,” said Diego Felipe Bryan, a student of Mechanical Engineering at the University of the Andes and participant of the event. Together with his work team, they developed a prototype of an efficient manual fertilizer that would be much more practical to the farmers.
Among the presented prototypes and ideas, two were particularly highlighted: (i) a prototype to create potato starch since there are no national producers of that; (ii) a web page to support farmers on diversifing Colombian native potato crops and connect them with potential buyers.
The Makeathon was an occasion to learn the real challenges that Colombian agricultureis facing and we hope that some of the prototypes can further be developed to become a product.