CSE student wins ‘Student Entrepreneur of the Year’

Four other CSE-led projects were featured at the 2024 Founder’s Day event

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (06/12/2024) — Aditya Prabhu, who founded two start-up companies as a College of Science and Engineering undergraduate student, won the “Student Entrepreneur of the Year” award at the 2024 University of Minnesota Founder’s Day. Prabhu graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Aditay Prabhu and his teammates were also voted the night’s crowd favorite for their project, Canopy Systems, a low-power and long-range communication system to help growers monitor conditions in indoor and outdoor farms, as well as greenhouses without the need for wires and frequent battery charging. The other member of the project included Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate student Chase Anderson.

“Canopy started actually on my windowsill,” Prabhu said. “When I went off to college, I had no way to know if my plants got enough water or not. Low and behold, I was like, ‘We can probably use our engineering skills to build something for that.’” 

But Prabhu soon realized that this idea had potential beyond his windowsill. In 2022, he decided to visit greenhouses across the Twin Cities to learn how they measured humidity, temperature, soil moisture, and nutrients. And what he found was an industry “stuck in the past” and dependent on inflexible, clunky technology. 

Prabhu and Anderson developed their first prototype soon after, a small sensor the size of your palm and completely powered by solar energy, that could remotely measure and control growing conditions.

Image of students presenting start-up companies and Founder's Day Event 2024.
CSE graduate student Chase Anderson and recent CSE graduate Aditya Prabhu show off Canopy, a remote wireless sensor that regulates conditions in a greenhouse, during the Founder’s Day at Walter Library. Canopy won the Crowd Favorite category. Photo credit: Craig Bares Photography

Now, the team is upscaling the project by building its own mini-greenhouse for testing and trying to integrate a fully automated system that would also control watering and lighting, which could make greenhouses and indoor farms more efficient.

Others have taken notice of Prabhu’s entrepreneurial activities.

“While his 3.9 GPA is impressive, I believe what is even more impressive is the tremendous range of activities he’s participated in across the University,” said John Stavig, program director for the University of Minnesota Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship.

While a student, Prabhu also started a second company, Alure LLC, that has developed a unique approach to managing Japanese Beetles, an invasive species that causes heavy plant damage in agricultural crops. Alure’s unique surface attracts the bugs and kills them on contact. 

In addition, Prabhu served as a director of Atland Ventures (a student-owned venture capital company) for three semesters, worked as a research assistant in two University robotics labs, won the University’s BizPitch competition in Fall of 2022, and advanced as a statewide semifinalist in the 2023 MN Cup.

More than 200 alumni, students, faculty and community members came together for the Founder’s Day event to support emerging entrepreneurs and innovators across the University of Minnesota. The event featured 10 undergraduate entrepreneurial ventures from the College of Science and Engineering, Carlson School of Management, and College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Other College of Science and Engineering student projects featured at the event included:

  • Awake Fiberoptic Intubation Trainer by biomedical engineering 2024 graduate Rana Abdelshahed.
  • Goldy Dog by computer science student Felipe Galindo and recent computer science graduate Ethan Maas.
  • Pediatric Otoscope by recent biomedical engineering graduates Dallas Carey, Ailen Costamagna-Soto, Riley Duryea, Claire Mikkelson and Lauren Kelly.
  • Salamander Life System by environmental engineering 2024 graduate Brian Balquist.

The 12th annual Founder’s Day was co-hosted by the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship in the Carlson School of Management and the University of Minnesota Libraries.

This story includes excerpts from a University of Minnesota Libraries Founder’s Day story by Adria Carpenter.