New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center is celebrating the success of Emerging Technology Ventures Inc. (ETV). The company, which has taken part in several Arrowhead Center programs, recently received a $200,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award.
“Arrowhead Center and NMSU have played an integral role in our growth as a company since 2015 when our first engineering interns joined us from NMSU,” said Cliff Hudson, ETV’s chief executive officer. ETV has taken part in AgSprint – an accelerator for agriculturally focused businesses – and was the 2018 winner of AgAssembly.
“As our technology and operational concepts for employing autonomous systems, precision sensing, and predictive analytics matured, the AgSprint program resulted in our first application in precision agriculture, GreenAI,” Hudson said.
During AgSprint, ETV was able to take a deep dive into customer discovery, where they took stock of the data farmers already had, but which the farmers were unable to process quickly. ETV used drones and robots augmented with artificial intelligence to sift through new data and analyze that alongside previously collected data sets to give farmers precisely the right recommendations for their fields and specific crops.
ETV was awarded a $20,000 contract for GreenAI, sponsored by Arrowhead’s industry partner, the New Mexico Gas Company, an Emera company, at AgSprint. This allowed ETV to grow its business by recruiting employees – they are on track to have 24 in New Mexico and one in Indiana – and educate a budding workforce by bringing on interns from NMSU, Navajo Technical University and high school students interested in robotics or coding.
“The AgSprint training in customer discovery and market validation, along with the strategic mentorship has helped us chart our path from concept to market,” he said. “We used this knowledge to adapt the GreenAI technology to a new market application for wind turbine inspection and condition-based maintenance, SkyAI.”
Hudson said the SkyAI program – which inspects the turbine blade for defects similar to those encountered on an aircraft – allowed them to adapt the system to the Navy’s requirements.
“Then we utilized the Arrowhead Center SBIR Accelerator (ACSA) program to improve the quality of our SBIR proposal and their micro grants to develop a government compliant cost accounting system,” said Hudson.
The ACSA program is a multi-week accelerator that provides real-time assistance for those seeking SBIR/STTR funding. It was created to demystify federal processes and provide comprehensive proposal development support that many clients needed. For participants, it’s a very intense process, requiring active participation, weekly learning sessions, homework, and in-class activities.
“We’re thrilled to hear about his award and congratulate the team on their success,” said Del Mackey, Arrowhead Center Senior Economic Development officer. “It has been a pleasure to work with Cliff through a variety of Arrowhead programs over the past few years, as he proves the ecosystem works and we provide assistance every step of the way in growth and development.”
ACSA utilizes a cohort style approach that provides an introduction into the programs, why they matter for small businesses, and comprehensive instruction on proposal preparation. ACSA is expanding and has three upcoming cohorts: one focused on Small Business Technology Transfer, one focused on the National Science Foundation, and one focused on the National Institutes of Health.
“Our ACSA program was created when we identified a need for more intense support throughout the entire SBIR/STTR proposal development process and is something we hope to expand through our NM FAST program,” said Dana Catron, Arrowhead Center’s SBIR program director. “By providing real-time support to participants, we can ensure they receive directed assistance that will result in a strong proposal package.”
Agency-specific cohorts will walk participants through every step of creating and submitting a complete and compelling proposal package to that agency. The final activity is a live submission session where participants are provided guidance and oversight while they submit their proposal package.
“The bottom line is that we feel we’re never alone and have a strategic partner with genuine concern, reach, and resources to support our growth as a New Mexico business,” Hudson said.