BAEN Capstone Teams Places Third at AGCO National Student Design Contest

Congratulations to the BAEN Capstone team “Innovative Farming Solutions” who submitted their capstone project and were chosen to present in the finals of the 2020 AGCO National Student Design Contest. The team of Madison Hodges, Ana Chen Reyes, and Jacy Gray placed third overall at this year’s annual contest. The team designed a rural greenhouse/garden in a food desert area of South Texas for the South Texas Advancement Resource (STAR) group. This is the second year in a row a BAEN team from A&M has qualified for the finals and placed in the top 3 positions at this national contest. 

From left to right, Ana Chen Reyes, Jacy Gray, and Madison Hodges.

The client was Mr. Bill Raney with the STAR organization. Mr. Raney has been bringing our class Capstone projects for several years. STAR (South Texas Advancement Resource) is a non-profit organization based in Webb County, Texas. Founded in 2016, STAR provides research and educational programs for sustainable farming and ranching in South Texas. 

The department’s capstone class is set up so that three different capstone instructors, Dr. Nikolov, Dr. Riskowski, and Professor Stark, are each assigned ⅓ of the teams in the class and act as their Project Manager. Each team is also assigned a faculty advisor as a “subject matter expert” that they can go to with questions throughout the project. This structure helps imitate the conditions of working in the industry. The team was fortunate enough to have Dr. Gary Riskowski as their Project Manager and Dr. Vallenini Pappa from the Civil Engineering Department as their Faculty Advisor. Dr. Pappa works very closely with our department and has been a BAEN Capstone Faculty Advisor on projects for a number of years.

The site of the project is a 5-acre plot in a semi-arid region with little to no rainfall. With a $99,000 grant from the government, the team was tasked with creating a rural garden design that would allow optimal crops to grow in the semi-arid region in all seasons and creating a crop rotation plan. The final garden layout is divided into two sections: high tunnels that will house eggplants or cucumbers depending on the season, and a traditional garden of beets with a companion plant of mint. The high tunnels are positioned in a single-bay configuration upwind and perpendicular to the wind direction to reduce wind speed and protect the traditional garden from wind erosion up to 480 ft downwind.  More information about the design can be found here.

Their design was so impressive, Mr. Raney, started the process of building and implementing it this summer. With partial funding from a USDA grant, STAR has constructed 2 of 4 high tunnels with completion scheduled for September. STAR will complete the irrigation system this Fall and start planting in January and February of 2021. 

A video of the group’s full presentation can be found here.

Questions about the BAEN capstone program should be directed to Greg Stark (

To learn more about STAR, become a project sponsor, or to make a donation, you can visit their website at

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