Raptor Maps, a startup building and operating drone technology with the goal of feeding a growing world, was awarded the Robert P. Goldberg $100,000 grand prize Wednesday night after beating out seven other finalist teams during the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition’s Launch Finale held on the MIT campus.
This year’s teams of finalists –whose offerings included, among others, underwater robots and new technology for treating inoperable tumors– emerged from a pool of 194 competing teams. A panel of judges made up of venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, and industry professionals said they chose Raptor Maps based on the strength of their technology, business plan, pitch, and team composition.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker kicked off this year’s finale by presenting a proclamation declaring May 14, 2015 as Entrepreneurship Day in honor of the MIT $100K’s 25th anniversary. Key note speakers were MIT Professor Robert Langer, an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur and inventor who holds more than 1,060 granted or pending patents; and Jason Fuller, principal at NEA, a global venture capital firm.
The Raptor Map co-founders, all of which are engaged in NASA research to help transport humans to Mars, are:
Nikhil Vadhavkar, PhD candidate, MIT Health Sciences and Technology
Forrest Meyen, PhD candidate, MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics
Edward Obropta, PhD candidate, MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, agriculture is the largest industry in the world. Yet a staggering one-third of all crops planted annually are destroyed by diseases, pests, and insects. [Source: Plant Pathology by George N. Agrios]
Raptor Maps uses proprietary multispectral imaging that scans large areas of farmland and, with the use of analytics, pinpoints crop damage before pests and diseases can spread. This enables focused pesticide application, which increases crop yields while reducing environmental impact.
“The seeds for Raptor Maps were planted in July 2014 during a NASA-funded planetary geology expedition in Idaho,” says Vadhavkar, who previously led a team with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to use drones to deliver emergency medical supplies in developing nations. “Forrest and I found that the resolution of satellite data was too low. But drone technology provided critical data within the same day.”
Initially, he said, the founders thought about selling their drone system. “But by engaging with farmers and other clients, we realized they cared far more about obtaining data than operating drones,” says Vadhavkar. “Now, with the help of the MIT $100K Competition, we will be able to deliver our services where they are needed the most.”
Raptor Maps also shared a $6,000 Thomas-Reuters Data Prize with fellow finalist Quorum, which offers an online legislative strategy platform that provides unique quantitative insights into how the U.S. Congress votes.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com