When Juan Abraham suggested the Agribots idea during a brainstorming session for Wharton’s business plan competition, I initially thought the idea was ludicrous. What he was proposing was utilizing quadrotor helicopters to fight freezing temperatures in Chile, a problem that farmers like his father had every year. However, after a few days of working with Juan on the idea, we both realized that we could bolster the freeze control aspect of our business with agricultural analysis. This is how the Agribots idea was born.
In the short time that Juan and I have been working on Agribots, we overcome a great deal of challenges. The company was able to get some initial funding from the Lauder Institute’s Santander Venture Award as well as the Y-Prize competition, which is put on by the University of Pennsylvania Engineering department and the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at Wharton. Our participation in these contests was a great source of feedback for the business. As we continually worked on the Agribots idea, we incorporated or detracted features from the feedback we received throughout both our Wharton classes and the competitions we entered.
This preparation is what aided us when applying to Start-Up Chile. The competition is conducted by the Chilean Government and it is used to attract early stage, high-potential entrepreneurs. The government hopes that through the competition, Chile can become the technological hub of South America. Juan and I jumped at the opportunity to not only gain additional funding, but also to participate in a new era of technological development beginning in Latin America. Having been born in Mexico, and Juan in Chile, we both felt strong connections to helping Latin America move away from commodities and tourism, and focus more on high tech manufacturing and services. More importantly, we saw Agribots as an opportunity to help farmers in Chile—as well as other emerging and developing countries—have access to better agricultural analysis tools, thereby helping them improve crop yields, create jobs, and strengthen local economies.
Although we had no idea how Agribots would fare in the competition, Juan and I felt strongly about our idea and mission and decided to apply. After three months of waiting, we finally received word that Agribots had been selected to participate in the 10th Start-Up Chile class. The ramifications that the selection has for our company means that we access to $40,000 in cash and entrepreneurial space in Chile, and we can finally begin to develop a working prototype from which to launch our business.
Although there have been many sleepless nights, countless shifts in focus, and many unknowns, Juan and I are very excited to continue working on Agribots and we look forward to participating in the Start-Up Chile competition. We certainly would not have been so successful without the help of the Wharton students and faculty, and especially Lauder faculty who have been incredibly supportive since the initiation of our Venture. We would like to thank everyone who has helped us develop our idea and hope that we can continue to succeed.
By: Carlos Vadillo, Lauder ’15 Japanese track