Pons Wins CSU Demo Day Award with "Weather Water Watts" Technology
Diego Pons, Assistant Professor of Geography, has won the Innovation in Liberal Arts Award at the 2022 Colorado State University Demo Day, which showcases and recognizes inventions and technology developed by CSU researchers and professors. Pons' invention, Weather Water Watts, is an innovative technology designed for farms that enables land managers to monitor, tackle, and mitigate problems that negatively impact crop production including drought, heat waves and insect pests. His work is inspired, in part, by challenges faced by coffee farmers and others in his native Guatemala where he continues to conduct research and educational outreach.
"I am excited about the possibility of a different agricultural paradigm that is in line with climate and energy goals and that may make it actually sustainable," Pons said. speaking of his technology and the Demo Day award.
The Weather Water Watts technology (see Pons' Demo day video pitch) resembles retractable palm trees that can be set in the ground in farm fields to automatically regulate temperature and soil moisture. Each unit will be able to create a small umbrella-like canopy to help regulate shade when used in groups. A UV light and an alcohol trap will attract and kill insect pests. The climate data will also enable farmers to make more effective decisions on when to irrigate fields or harvest crops while producing clean energy. Pons has created his own prototype of Weather Water Watts, receiving support from CSU Ventures and the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo.
“Dr. Pons has developed impressive, innovative tools to address our current challenges in combating climate change,” Jillian Lang, Director of Licensing and Business Development for Food and Agricultural Sciences with Colorado State University Research Foundation, told the College of Liberal Arts Magazine in Winter 2022. “His technologies include devices for in-field agricultural production and teaching producers and children about the impacts of climate change on agriculture.”
Pons added, "CSU has such an amazing venture program that supports faculty as well as students."
In addition to his innovation interests, Pons studies and develops seasonal and sub-seasonal climate data and forecast systems that can be used by farmers in rain-fed agricultural landscapes. He also leads trainings for Guatemalan climate scientists and technicians to conduct their own research and forecasting.
"Although I think of geography faculty as uniformly innovative, to see an actual invention that performs such an important task for farmers that is also so incredibly cool-looking blew me away," said Anthropology and Geography Professor and Chair Mica Glantz. "I am so proud of Dr. Pons's work. It is all the best things wrapped together: engagement, data-inspired problem solving, and fabulous design."
Pons hopes to deploy prototypes of his technology on campus and elsewhere in Colorado, and will also explore partnerships to place and test them on Guatemala coffee farms.
"We are looking forward to partnering with key stakeholders to make a reality out there in Colorado’s farming lands and elsewhere in coffee regions," Pons said.