Research Foundation News

April 25, 2016  

Drone agricultural application company wins 3rd annual Boiler Mini-Accelerator Competition

PRF Demo day aerial

From left, Austin Deardorff, Angelo DeFlora, Justin Kinney and Taylor Wetli, students in Purdue’s College of Engineering, are founders of a startup called Aerial Agriculture. The agriculture technology startup designs, builds and pilots drones in-house to collect specialized near-infrared images that depict crop health for agricultural companies. Aerial Agriculture won first place and $5,000 during Demo Day at the third annual Boiler Mini-Accelerator Competition. (Purdue Research Foundation photo)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Aerial Agriculture, a startup founded by Purdue University students, took top honors and $5,000 during “Demo Day” at the third annual Boiler Mini-Accelerator Competition, or Boiler, on Friday (April 22) in the Anvil, a community co-working space and business incubator in West Lafayette.

The Boiler takes place over eight weeks, and participants receive professional advice and business development strategies from entrepreneurial experts at the Purdue Foundry, a startup resource center in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. Teams also are provided with mentoring from industry leaders and experts, office space, workshops and funding to enable their startups to reach the next level.

Aerial Agriculture team members Taylor Wetli, Justin Kinney, Austin Deardorff, Angelo DeFlora - all students in Purdue’s College of Engineering - are commercializing technology that builds and pilots Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or "drones," in-house, to collect specialized near-infrared images that depict crop health to reduce excess fertilizer and other input costs, while increasing yields.

Kinney said the resources the Boiler provided over the last eight weeks has been invaluable.

“Having access to networking opportunities from all the different entrepreneurs and Purdue Foundry personnel as well as the Launch Box sessions we attended, have all been really beneficial to us individually and for our company,” he said. “Winning the Boiler validates our hard work and product. We are currently talking to companies who may implement our service this summer and a few that will start beta testing this summer.”

Placing second and receiving $3,000 was Socio, a startup that has developed a social media application that allows people to connect by introducing the “digital handshake.”

“More than the competition and money, the competition’s been about the support and mentorship we’ve received,” said Yarkin Sakucoglu, a sophomore in Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute. “The point of accelerators is to take your startup from A to B. For most it’s idea to a tangible product, but we already had a working product, so it was moving our working product to monetization. These last eight weeks we’ve been able to acquire our first paying customers, so it has been great being part of the competition.”

Placing third and receiving $1,500 is OWL, a startup that’s commercializing a wearable made for children, allowing goal-setting and tracking for fitness in a fun and easy way.

“The Purdue Foundry and all of our mentors have been great throughout this entire process. They’ve been accessible whether it’s through Skype, email or meeting in person, and they’ve provided us a lot valuable advice,” said Ryan Ma, OWL CEO and a student in the College of Liberal Arts. “This summer we plan on launching a Kickstarter campaign to help further develop our product and customer base.”

Aerial Agriculture and Socio will also receive free and discounted professional services through Purdue’s entrepreneurial programs and resources.            

Shane DeWael, director of the Anvil, said he thinks this year’s competition was one of the best.

“We’ve seen some of the most exciting and diverse teams come out of the Boiler this year, which has really indicated the current and future success of the competition,” he said. “Next year we hope to continue to grow the competition and possibly do a fall competition, as well. We're currently working on raising funds to make this future growth possible.”

This year the competition hosted an all-investor judging panel. Judges were from Elevate Ventures, M25 Group, VisionTech, Chicago Ventures, High Alpha, and Foundation Capital. 

About the Anvil

The Anvil is a co-working space at Purdue University that serves the unique needs of students, acting as a center of creative culture in West Lafayette. The Anvil focuses on providing local and student run startups affordable office space.

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; and acquires property on behalf of Purdue. The Foundation manages the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, which operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the United States.

About Purdue Foundry

Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. The foundry collaborates with longstanding activities already taking place in the center with a goal to increase the growing demand from Purdue innovators who have an interest in forming a startup or licensing their discoveries.

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Hillary Henry, 765-588-3586,

Sources: Shane DeWael, 317-667-7235,

Justin Kinney, 847-471-8692, 

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