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.

Smart Green Island 2018

After the participation to the 2017 event, professor Giacomo Barbieri came back to Gran Canaria for the third edition of the Smart Green Island Makeathon 2018. The exponential growth of the event is impressive as the numbers can witness. They started on 2016 with 45 participants, while last year were 83 and 167 during this edition. Students from 39 universities from 7 different countries formed multidisciplinary and multicultural groups for the design and implementation of a prototype in 3 days. Smart home and agriculture prototypes were designed along with clean energy, internet of things and autonomous driving projects.

The impression is that something big is being born due to participation and sponsorship of more than 30 companies of the European automation elite as AMK, B&R and Tetra Pak. The objective is the organization on 2020 of a Makeathon in Munich with more than 1000 participants. For professor Barbieri is a proud be part of this network and collaborate on innovative projects. Last January, a former los Andes students joined the company ITQ organizer of the event. We are planning interchange of students and the collaboration on projects of automation and smart farming. Moreover, we open the student group Mi5 Bogotá which was funded for the Mechanical Engineering department of los Andes and is working on the topic of automatic coffee harvesting and on the implementation of a Food Computer. Finally, the participation to the event has been the chance to announce the second edition of the Smart Farming Makeathon Colombia 2018 that will be from 1st to 3rd of August.

The main massage from the event and the professionals who joined the event is that the word is quickly changing, and university must change on a place in which people learn how to learn. Nowadays, it is no more realistic to finish the university with a knowledge that will be sufficient for the whole professional career. More and more there is the need of this kind of events in order to experiment new ways of learning and working.

For more information:


Mi5 Bogotá: September Meeting


Mi5 first meeting, now we start!

At los Andes University on wednesday, September 27th, the first meeting between Mi5 teams was held. The goal was to show the teams’ progress and to find advice among the various attendees. At the meeting there were approximately 40 people among students, professors and representatives of the companies involved in the challenges. It is worth saying, that there were many more people than in the kick off metting, denoting encouragement and commitment in all teams.

The meeting began with a presentation of the Mi5 Group, its rules and its mission, as well as the statistics corresponding to the conformation of Mi5 Bogotá. Subsequently, the presentation of the members of the organization team was carried out, and then the members of each one of the challenges presented their projects, showing progress and with a clear willingness to be helped by the other groups. The challenges presented were those of Café, Xenital, Win2Sol, Grou, Gmas and Regadío teams. This part of the agenda was the one that took most time, because of the constant questions and interventions of the attendees to their colleagues. Next, the technological tools used by the Mi5 group were explained: Google Groups, Life 4.0, Facebook, Wiki and Dapulse (tool of which a short tutorial was given).

To conclude, and because the meeting had already passed the stipulated time, two short interventions were made. The first was the launch of the “logo challenge” consisting of an internal contest (within members of Mi5 Bogotá) to create our own logo of Mi5 Bogotá in relation to the objectives and pillars of the organization, and having in mind that the focus in Colombia is on agriculture. The pillars of Mi5 are, on one hand, reducing the gap between university and enterprises, preparing the digital revolution, and creating a global network; and on the other hand, the 5 ‘i’s’ of Mi5: innovative, interdisciplinary, international, incremental, iterative. The last intervention was given by Giacomo Barbieri, a professor in the mechanics department in los Andes University and the local coordinator of Mi5, who presented a summary of the first CGIAR annual convention, a big data conference based on agriculture. Giacomo presented information useful and interesting for Mi5. The meeting ended with an invitation to all those attending to come to future meetings of Mi5 and to use the spaces and tools at their disposal to improve their projects as a whole.


First Meeting Mi5 Colombia

Mi5 in Colombia – Kick-off Meeting


On the 19th of August the Mi5 Bogotá student group started officially the operations with a kick-off meeting. Unfortunately the meeting was held on Saturday and 15 students participated while other 10 were unable to attend. Students carefully listened to the presentation by Professor Giacomo Barbieri, teacher at the Mechanical Engineering department of los Andes University, who explained the proposed challenges for this semester and the mission of the Mi5 group. Since Colombia is mainly an agricultural country, our focus topic will be on the use of technology in agriculture: smart farming.

The kick-off meeting showed that the students participating in Mi5 are not only curious about the 8 challenges proposed, but they are also committed to their country and to their own learning. The challenges are not easy, but everyone is motivated and ready to begin working. Out of the 8 challenges, 6 of them are sponsored by Colombian companies dedicated to using technology in agriculture (and other related areas), one of them is sponsored by los Andes University, and one of them corresponds to the organization and coordination of the Mi5 group. Detailed information about the challenges can be found at our Facebook page (Mi5 Bogotá) and soon in our webpage colombia.life4-0.com .

One of the objectives of the meeting was to get to know the participants, so each student presented himself and chose the challenges that interested him/her the most. The most popular ones were the challenges proposed by Win2sol (automation for aquaculture) and Israriego (automation of drip irrigation systems for urban farming). Most of the students are engineers from los Andes University, but there are also designers, administrators, political scientists, and marketers from 3 other universities. Today, 2 weeks after the first meeting, over 40 students are involved.


During the meeting we all contributed together to define the guidelines that we will follow as part of Mi5. Here we decided that a weekly meeting should be held between each team and their industry advisor, and one meeting of the entire Mi5 group should be held on a monthly basis. The location for this meeting has not yet been decided, but hopefully we will find a place with a TV where we can hold an informal meeting.

We have high expectations for Mi5 Bogota, where interdisciplinary and interuniversity work will strengthen research on smart farming in Colombia, and it will strengthen the link between industry and academy. For the students this will mean much more than a line on their CV. Participating in Mi5 will require for them to develop skills that will help them to become the leaders of tomorrow, and they will give agriculture in Colombia the chance to thrive once again.

60 Participants at the 1st Makeathon Colombia

Students from different disciplines assumed the risk of designing a prototype in only three days.


Is it possible to design a prototype that can solve an agricultural problem in three days? What looks impossible was one of the main bets of the 1st Makeathon Colombia, an event organized by the department of Mechanical Engineering of Los Andes University and the company Dr. Stetter ITQ. 60 students worked together and they assumed the challenge of thinking out of the box to optimize faring processes.

A Makeathon is an event where young people from various fields of study get together during a couple of days with the common aim of developing prototypes with innovating ideas while they learn and share with students from different parts of the world. In this first version 60 participants from 8 universities in Colombia, France and England attended.

The idea was born last February when five students of Los Andes University and the Postdoc of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Giacomo Barbieri, travelled to the Spanish island of Gran Canaria to participate in the Smart Green Island Makeathon. In this opportunity, the Colombian engineers worked with more than 100 students of 13 countries and were the only Latin-American students present at the event. “The other participants were surprised with the talent of the los Andes engineers”, mentioned Barbieri.



With this precedent, the postdoc and the five students began preparations to host a similar event in Colombia, which would motivate students of other universities and disciplines. Furthermore, this event would have Smart Farming as a protagonist. “In Colombia, the technological lag in agriculture has deepened the economic and social gap between the countryside and the cities, and is has endangered or wasted part of our natural resources. Therefore, we must innovate to close this gap, always looking at better ways of protecting our environment and our people”, says Catalina Albornoz, one of the organizers of the event.

To Barbieri, today more than ever engineering is called to involve in the formulation of innovative strategies to improve agriculture. “Today an engineer can contribute not only through machinery technology, but also through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). There is an important boom of the so-called precision agriculture and smart farming, where with the use of the ICTs such as big data and machine learning one can for example, reduce water and pesticide consumption and maximize production”.

The participants of this first Makeathon Colombia had the chance to attend a guided visit of a farm in Santandercito (Cundinamarca, Colombia) where they could know first-hand the needs faced by the Colombian farmers and there, they participated in a workshop about UAV flying. The days continued with workshops on robotics, computer vision, 3D printing and talks by entities such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of ICTs.



With this in mind the allies of the event, WWF Colombia and the Centre for Studies of the Orinoquía (CEO), gave the participants the challenges they would have to solve in the following three days, taking into account the time and space limitations they faced. “In this process, it was possible to show that companies are each time more convinced that technology and creative minds can give solutions to real problems”, mentions the Postdoc Barbieri.

To one French participant, Grégoire Hillion, an engineering student at the École des Mines d’Alès “events such as the makeathon force you to become more innovative when you think of a solution and develop projects”. The French student and his team developed a humidity sensor for coffee grains, which can be a tool so that farmers can guarantee the quality of the products they commercialize. Just like this one there were proposals about intelligent irrigation systems, alert systems, and nutrient delivery for livestock amongst others.

However, for the postdoc Giacomo Barbieri, “the most important outcome are the links that are born between the academia, companies and governments to trace the line for future collaboration and the motivation generated by these initiatives in the young people who will have the future of the country in their hands”.

At the end of the event the Mi5 Bogota group was opened, which as objectives to implement projects with academia and industry, to prepare the students for the digital revolution, and to create a local network of people that work on the Mi5 vision of the future: green, smart and innovative. These are some photos from the event:


Day 2: Smart Farming Challenge

We noticed the exhaustion from yesterday upon waking up, and that explained the time of arrival of some. The early birds arrived at 7am to take an optional training to use the manufacturing lab. Unfortunately, due to the fact that there weren’t enough of the Personal Protection Elements needed, this training had to be rescheduled to 9:30am.

Excitement started growing during the group presentations. In the end 13 groups were created with challenges such as efficient irrigation, urban farming and feeding of salt for livestock, amongst others. Funny names for the groups didn’t make themselves wait. Some of the most creative ones were, elReguero, De esta sal limos and Uff.

During the talk about how to build a prototype Giacomo showed us some key elements which are necessary in order to do innovation such as making mistakes, asking, thinking about the final user and teamwork!



And then there was finally time to work! During the brainstorming session the markers flew and the boards didn’t take a break before ending full of drawings, ideas and lists. Laughter flooded the environment and the room became a true centre of innovation.



The presence of the Centre of Orinoquía Studies (Centro de Estudios de la Orinoquía CEO) and the presence of Manakin Drones, were vital because many addressed them with questions about the challenges and the way to solve them. And even though the suggestion was to dedicate this time to do brainstorming and give shape to ideas, more than one already began to look for materials and to build. They didn’t waste any time!

When it was time to go up to the robotics workshop some were so concentrated that the preferred not to go up, until they lost to the curiosity of seeing what it was about or until they realised that almost everyone had gone up and they preferred not to stay working on their own.

The most enthusiastic about the workshop got there early and they managed to sit beside one of the 9 robotic cars that were distributed along the tables. Little by little the room started filling while Santiago Iregui and Alejandro Cendales explained how an Arduino can be used, how it can be connected, which are the inputs, etc. It was a good introduction about the topic and it helped many to work on their challenges!

Unlike the first day the stomachs were always full. There was a snack at 10am, lunch at noon and another snack at 3pm. Full stomach… happy heart and challenge solved. But what students liked the most was not only the food at the cafeteria but also that external students got to appreciate the university’s facilities and the campus.

With a full stomach we went back to the engineering building to hear a talk by the ministry of agriculture. Unfortunately digestion made some eyelids heavy and some heads too. Nevertheless, we learnt about the Government’s vision and some of the current programs on agriculture.



Then it was the turn for the turn for the talk by the ministry of Information Technology and Communications. What a good way of presenting! William Fabián Acevedo gave an interactive and fun speech, which pulled us out of our sleep and made us question ourselves about how technology is advancing for the people and not the other way around. At the end there were many questions. For instance, one participant asked if there were strategies to educate people from the city about the countryside and not only educate the countryside about technology from the city. William was speechless, surprised, but with a smile across his face. He hadn’t thought about this! Efforts had been concentrated on helping farmers with technology but nobody had thought how to help the consumer make more informed decisions. Very happy, William told us that these kinds of questions are very valuable to him and this is one of the gains he gets from doing presentations to students. We are so proud that we could show the ministry a new way of seeing things!



After so many talks and workshops everyone wanted to start building so during the design session they all ran to their boards, to ask for components and tools, the started making computer assisted designs, and they overwhelmed Alejandro with a list of materials they would need for the next day.



The 3D printing workshop given by Jorge Dueñas, from IMOCOM, fell right into place because students learnt how and what to print. They were able to ask many questions and Jorge managed to check some of the designs and give them council.

Again, exhaustion could no more and everyone left to their homes around 7:30pm.

Day 1: Smart Farming Challenge

What a day!


The first day arriving early was easy. The excitement and expectations were at a peak and we all wanted the event to begin straight away. The organizers arrived at 7am to make sure everything was ready for the arrival of the participants, who were expected at 8am, and they got surprised when students started arriving at 7:30am. Half an hour early! Nevertheless it was no problem, everything was under control. The excitement was so big that even 4 companies arrived despite the fact that we didn’t expect them to come until Friday! In the end 60 students from 7 Colombian universities and one French university, and companies from Colombia and the Equator, came to participate in the 1st Makeathon Colombia!


Professor Andrés González from the department of Mechanical Engineering gave the opening speech, followed by a speech by the organizing professor Giacomo Barbieri. The challenge presentation was a key moment since these are the smart farming challenges that students will develop during the rest of the event.


And then…to the buses! Two buses were waiting for us with the lunch ready in each seat and we left to Santandercito! But before, the French student, who came directly from Medellín, arrived just in time to hop on the bus. Given the excitement some got hungry and they thought the boxes on the seats were a snack, but most of them waited to get to the farm to enjoy their lunch in open air.


The journey was relaxed, everyone connected to their headphones and enjoying the trip. When we got close to the Salto del Tequendama falls something started to smell bad. The river was contaminated! How important it is to take into account the environmental impact of what we do in order to prevent damaging a place as beautiful as the falls. Lesson learned.

Upon our arrival the 5-minute walk uphill was hard. The terrain was very very steep. After lunch the drone workshop began, where Miguel Quirama from the company Manakin, explained and showed how to fly a drone. Everyone had fun and asked lots of questions. Pictures talk for themselves.



We walked into the coffee field to know, from a farmer’s perspective, how coffee is grown and processed. The shadow from the trees was a relief after the group picture, where all of us with our black T-shirts, had to jam together in order to fit into the picture. How hot. In the coffee field we had the chance to experiment and reflect about some of the inherent challenges of farming which we will have to face. Some of them are the lack of connectivity, the difficult access to some zones and the varying weather conditions.


Approaching the time to leave, and with a better idea of the challenges, we got together in a circle in order to introduce ourselves and present the challenges which interested us. And then… time for team building! Without hesitation all participants started to mix together and look for those who shared their interests!


The journey back was nothing like the journey to the farm. Everybody sat in groups and talked the entire way about the challenges they chose. The day in the countryside joined everybody and created vital connections!


Upon arrival to the university we took a well-deserved 10-minute break and we then received a talk from Manakin about what we can do with pictures taken by drones. We were all awed. Finally we had the Computer Vision Workshop where, despite a licence problem, we learned a couple of useful tricks.

At the end of the day the exhaustion was evident, but still the participants stayed for a while to talk with their groups and discuss the plan for the following days.

Project: Automatic Harvesting Device

The first project of Mi5 Team Bogotá concerns a smart farming implementation in Colombian coffee fields. Currently, the harvesting is a fully handmade activity. The two main reasons for that are:

  • Field conformation: Colombian coffee fields are located on hillsides and valleys that have a complex and challenging topography for traditional automated harvesting machines. Fields can reach an inclination from 30% to 100%.

Steep inclination of coffee fields.

  • Fruit heterogeneity: coffee bean ripening is not uniform. Therefore, it is necessary to harvest just the red beans while the others must remain in the branch.

Fruit heterogeneity.


These restrictions make the handmade harvesting the most viable and used method in Colombia. However, the manpower has been decreasing in the last years due to population migration to the cities. This situation creates a deficit of labor force in the fields.

The National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé the Spanish acronym) has been investigating for automating the harvesting operation. Recently, Cenicafé developed a “caucciú” gripper able to harvest coffee beans once in contact with them. Therefore, there is the need of a device able to recognize and place the gripper in contact with the mature beans.

Cenicafé gripper test bench.

Mi5 Team Bogotá will design and develop a mechanism able to recognize mature coffee beans and their location. The mechanism will consist of a tube for isolating the working environment and a rail for allowing the movement of a camera along the branch. Algorithms for recognizing mature coffee beans and their spatial location, light disturbance, camera radial position and orientation degrees of freedom, tube dimension, material and color will be some of the challenges the team is going to work on.

Stay tuned!