SWVC Challenges

Startup

Weekend

 SWVC Challenges

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Startup Weekend Ventura County presents a series of challenges in the healthcare and agricultural area. These challenges are provided by the rank and file of Dignity Health St. Johns Hospitals, Ventura County Medical Center, Limoneira, Boniak and Reiter Affiliated Companies. 

SWVC 2017 brings together intrapreneurs from end user sponsors and team them with entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, healthcare professionals, agriculturalists, physicians, farmers and engineering/business students from nearby universities to address these (and other) challenges. 


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Healthcare Challenges
Sensors and Interpretation 
of Breath Sounds
  • Disorders of the lungs represent a large population of patients who require a lot of healthcare utilization. COPD is a major focus. Currently the listening and interpretation of breath sounds is a major part of monitoring progress or decline. A device that can capture this on a regular interval or as needed would improve the response to changes.
  • Low profile and wireless, important in treatment of lung disorders(pneumonia) and progression to discharge. Could be used remotely at patients home for monitoring.
ER Patient Test Tracking System
  • Currently there is no real time tracking information available to patients or providers on the lab test, radiology etc. Potential to save time and increase patient satisfaction. 
  • Create a system to inform patient and providers a real time view of progress similar to a Fed Ex Tracking of a package. Improve patient experience and timeliness of provider interaction and discharge. 
Sensors and Interpretation 
of Bowel Sounds
  • Currently bowel sounds are only accomplished by listening directly by a provider. Improved collection and utilization of this information would aid in their progress after surgery. 
  • Sensors for bowel sounds and interpretations to determine progress in diet after surgery, improve length of stay.
Identification of Responsible Physician
  • One of the challenges in the hospital is identifying who the physician responsible for a patient is at any given time. With varying shifts within 24 hours, handoffs and coverage assignments, it is an ever evolving puzzle.
  • Current efforts to identify the physician responsible are dependent on the individual physicians remembering to update their assignments. This relies too heavily on human behavior and we need a more robust solution that is somewhat automated.
  • An ideal system would integrate physician schedules, patients assignments, coverage assignments during call responsibility and allow staff to be able to know exactly which physician is responsible at any given time.
Hand Hygiene Tracker
  • Hand hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent hospital associated transmission of infection. While everyone is aware of the importance, there is still variable compliance with the expected opportunities for hand hygiene, which include before and after patient contact and after any exposure to bodily fluids/material.  
  • A system that track and ensure proper hand hygiene by staff members at all expected opportunities for hand hygiene.
In-patient Wireless 
Vitals Tracking
  • Currently vitals need staff to perform and record usually on a regular interval. Utilizes multiple pieces of equipment and then is documented via computer into electronic health record. Using a low profile wireless technology that can collect this data and put directly into the patient record will save time and can improve information for treatment decision making.
  • Low profile wireless vitals tracking and connection to EHR- improve patient monitoring and could help discharge process. 
Ultrasound Transducer Patch
  • Current technology is a unit with a handheld transducer that needs a technician to operate. Device is transported throughout facility to collect the test data.
  • Ultrasound transducer patch that can transmit info wirelessly-provide real time looks at tests like abdominal organs and echocardiograms and follow ups without having to bring portable unit around hospital and room to room. Improve workflow and diagnostic utility.
Waiting Room Delay
  • Currently, we have no existing system to convey expected wait times or delays to waiting patients in an automated fashion. Studies demonstrate that while waiting is never ideal, being communicated with and aware of what the expected additional wait time will be, improves patient experience. 
  • Create a system, potentially using patient smartphones, to communicate in real time notifications about expected wait times, how many patients may be ahead of them and ability to move about a waiting room without fear they may miss when they are called.
Waiting Room Delay
  • Currently, we have no existing system to convey expected wait times or delays to waiting patients in an automated fashion. Studies demonstrate that while waiting is never ideal, being communicated with and aware of what the expected additional wait time will be, improves patient experience. 
  • Create a system, potentially using patient smartphones, to communicate in real time notifications about expected wait times, how many patients may be ahead of them and ability to move about a waiting room without fear they may miss when they are called. 
Sensors and Interpretation 
of Breath Sounds
  • Disorders of the lungs represent a large population of patients who require a lot of healthcare utilization. COPD is a major focus. Currently the listening and interpretation of breath sounds is a major part of monitoring progress or decline. A device that can capture this on a regular interval or as needed would improve the response to changes.
  • Low profile and wireless, important in treatment of lung disorders(pneumonia) and progression to discharge. Could be used remotely at patients home for monitoring.
Sensors for Specific Muscles
  • Stroke is a significant healthcare issue. Currently we have only visual and provider direct testing that can indicate changes in condition. 
  • Sensors for specific muscles that can be put on patients to detect changes related to stroke. Work as an early warning to deteriorating neurological status. Could also be combined with other sensors to be used as neuro checks for inpatients, could decrease nurse time.

Agriculture Challenges

Localized Well Head Water Treatment for Chlorides
  • There are existing products in place for larger scale water production but none of them are cost effective or small enough in scale. Most are using reverse osmosis which is currently not cost effective from an ongoing maintenance perspective.
  • A system that removes Chlorides to below 80 parts per million from well water or to a reasonable level where it could be blended with other clean water. This system coud be directly placed on top of a pump or set directly aside as a filter station.  
Truck QuikTarp System
  • It has now become law that transporting citrus and other items in CA a truck must be tarped. There is no efficient way to do this today we are aware of.
  • A tarping system where the driver can quickly and easily pull a cover over the field bins that will be transported to packing or washing facilities.
Precision Drone Sprayer
  • Currently there are drones that do spraying buy they are more broad based row crop applicators. For citrus in particular, a spray only from the top doesn’t provide full coverage for the tree which is why folair sprays are done by tractor down a row.  
  • A drone that could fly low and slow over and orchard which an arm that would extend down both sides of a tree and cover the top. Also it would need to have enough tank capacity to be efficient in the amount of times it needed to refill. This drone could also be used as a wind effect potentially for increasing airflow in orchards during freeze events.
Rotation of Inventory 
Inside Storage Racks

Current System:
  • Specs: Racks have capacity to hold 12 pallets in lower level and 12 pallets in upper level. In order to pull product from upper level, product from lower level has to be pulled first. (Not efficient). Full pallet of product weight ranges from 1,000 lbs. to 2,100 lbs.
  • Issue 1: In order to keep rotation, users have to rotate product. New product in back, Old product in the front. Users also consolidate racks.
  • Issue 2: Order calls for product that is on upper level. User needs to pull product in lower level to get to upper level. Blocks passageway, takes longer to load.
Desired System:
  • Storage racks have the ability to auto rotate product from upper level to lower level and also from rack to rack. Organize sku’s and Harvest Dates.
  • When Order getting pulled. Have entire order automatically pulled to 1 designated area (Rack) for loader to grab.
Strawberries are the number one 
crop in Ventura County, but are challenged by labor availability 
at time of planting.

Current System and Performance:
  • Currently, all planting is done by hand, which is undesirable work with variable results in terms of planting quality, and which also pulls labor away from other important tasks.
Desired System and Performance:
  • A machine planter that can effectively plant bare root strawberries through plastic mulch at comparable or lower cost than current hand planting.
Maintaining a living soil that 
supports defined bacteria and 
fungi promoting healthy root development.

Current System and Performance:
  • Inadequate soil testing of living soils. Current metrics are too broad with limited analysis to guide a farmer to build respective soils to become a “living” soil appropriate to specific crops.
Desired System and Performance:
  • Standard bacterial and fungi identification and base line for soils of specific crops. Analysis would identify gaps and clarify needed additives and conditions for proliferation of a healthier soil.
Portable toilets are used extensively throughout the industry and date 
back decades with limited to no 
new technology for more efficient processing and cleaning as well as important hygiene.

Current System and Performance:
  • Industry standard “out houses” are rented by third party and serviced with sump trucks. Some farmers run their own processes for improved service and cleanliness.
Desired System and Performance:
  • A new design with enhanced user comfort and more efficient processing / discharge.
Bird damage is rampant in the berry industry. Various methods are deployed with limited success.

Current System and Performance:
  • Timed annoying air cannon attempt to scare birds. Personnel on quads travel endless miles chasing the birds.
Desired System and Performance:
  • An intelligent drone could cost effectively fly the farm to chase birds off.
Leaf/Tree Handheld Analyzer 
for the Field 
(some handheld or gun device)
  • Any system that is out today only performs one function i.e. it reads one aspect of health of the tree. So you would need many devices to find out everything that was needed.
  • A handheld device where you could put a piece of leaf or tree trunk sliver into that would give us all the aspects of health for a lemon/orange/avocado tree.  
Ag Reservoir Cover System
  • As food safety becomes ever more critical in the world of fresh produce, farmers small irrigation reservoirs need a cheap easy way to cover there water from birds and contamination etc. Cover out there today are very expensive and high maintenance.  
  • Whether it’s a system of cheap plastic balls or a really thin inexpensive retractable cover, farmers need something to protect their water from contamination and evaporation 
Tree Crop Estimator
  • Currently the system is a guy drives into an orchard and looks at a few representative trees and the piece on it to estimate the entire orchard crop. There is no technology that we know that estimates based on pieces a machine visually sees. The difficulty is there are a lot of lemons/oranges inside each tree, so to create a system that sees thru a tree so to speak.  
  • Create a system whether on a vehicle that drives down each row or is in someone’s hand that can look at each tree in seconds and estimate how many pieces of fruit it has on it.  
Reduce Time Between Harvest and Cooling of Produce 
  • Once harvested, produce travels from field to cooler and sometimes waits hours before cooled. During summer, temperatures of produce can reach 90°.  
  • A system where we can begin cooling process once produce is packed at the field. This will reduce time to ultimately cool to desired temperature and extend its shelf life.
Hydration Monitor Sensor
  • During summer months the threat of dehydration and heat stress or stroke is a grave concern for farm labor.
  • A low cost sensor, possibly wearable that can assess an individuals’ hydration level and alert them and/or a foreman to their condition.
On-site Tissue Sampling
  • Have the ability to take tissue samples for nutrients in plants mainly nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus 
  • A way to test for nutrient levels of plants momentarily to apply fertilizer accordingly.
California changing labor laws, becoming the highest farm labor 
cost structure in the US, coupled 
with expanding global supply of raspberries is positioning the product’s continued investment 
in Ventura County to be at risk. 
Simply harvest efficiencies have 
to improve.

Current System and Performance:
  • Current California harvest performance averages 6.36 kilos per hour harvest speed.
Desired System and Performance:
  • To sustain raspberry investment harvest efficiency must increase to a minimum 9 kilos per man hour.
Artificial chilling of soilless media plant stock is demanding sensitive and timely cooling of large batches 
of plant material. Undefined refrigeration capacity will put 
pressure on the industry to 
compete for limited space.

Current System and Performance:
  • Use of existing cooling facilities dedicated to fresh product handling is limited and not optimum due to fluctuation in temperatures and humidity. Space and conditions not optimum to store highly valuable plants. Commercial space is often limited in the timing needed and too deep of a freezing environment for the sensitive plants.
Desired System and Performance:
  • Eliminate moving plants off ranch. Utilize temperature controlled tractor trailer units that can be left on ranch for cooling that are as or more efficient than coolers. Ideal if they were available for rent / lease per demand time. An additional opportunity would be to design a program that would be similar to freight forwarding in which the software would find commercial space amongst larger industrial cooling facilities. Either through finding space or leased units the concept is shared use as the need is only for six weeks but staggered depending on desired crop cycle.
Efficient and Environmentally Friendly Poultry Litter Dryer
  • Fit-for-purpose equipment designed to treat poultry manure at smaller, large-scale egg operations (100k-500K hens) is not readily available and custom-built units are rare and expensive. 
  • Conventional technology was invented 50+ years ago, have high capital costs, are extremely energy intensive and operationally inefficient.  
  • We would like to build a drying and pelleting system that targets smaller, large-scale egg operations.
  • The dryer must be more efficient, reduce energy consumption and drying time of the manure.
Mechanical Lemon Harvester
  • Currently there is no system that works to harvest “fresh” lemons in an efficient and non-damaging manner. All citrus is picked by hand at this point. The problem to date with a mechanical harvester is the “hand” that does the picking causes damage to the outside of fruit. With the labor shortage issue becoming our number one problem, something to pick fresh fruit cleanly with less people would be a big deal.  
  • A system that moves down the rows of an orchard that could harvest lemons and cut the stem of the lemon at the same time without causing external damage and also at a rate = or faster than humans.
Low Labor Precision 
Ag Equipment 
  • Today the labor shortage of farm workers is at a critical level. We use labor extensively in our fields everyday so to come up with driverless vehicles that could do daily tasks like spraying, mulching, pruning, and tree washing.
  • Create a tractor that is driverless that goes down the rows by GPS and completes various tasks from spraying, mulching, pruning, and tree washing.
Vegetative Monitoring System 
  • There are existing systems in place for longer crop cycles, however these are not fully integrated in providing feedback and data for short cycle vegetable crops. 
  • A system that continuously monitors a field’s soil moisture, growth stages, crop maturity, micro-climate weather, and degree days. This data would be centralized and analyzed using algorithm’s to send reports/ recommendations to ranch managers and harvest departments. This information will be used as a tool to help management make better business decisions.  
Harvest Estimate Accuracy and Mobile App for Data Entry 
  • Communication and the easy access to harvest field data and changes due to field conditions drastically affect sales inventory.
  • A cloud based data entry and retrieval app that allows real time updates for field yields and volumes. Also expandable for other form data entry.
Crop Scanner 
  • The selection of cauliflower for harvest involves the individual inspection of every head of cauliflower in the field. Cauliflower is surrounded by “wrapper leaves” that make inspection difficult and time consuming.
  • A sensor and marking apparatus that can be attached to a tractor and taken through the field to scan and identify the size of the individual cauliflower heads without disturbing the leaves. The system would then mark the plant to quickly identify which heads were ready to harvest. The sensor would also provide a report of the different sizes in the field.
Loss of registered fumigants 
will proliferate soil diseases 
harmful to berry crops

Current System and Performance:
  • Registered fumigants control many of the pathogens.
Desired System and Performance:
  • Methodology for monitoring active pathogens to select pest free soils.
“Probiotics” of the soil are real and promote both a living healthy soil 
and foster healthy roots

Current System and Performance:
  • Expensive and poorly understood products with active bacteria are available in the markets as soil input products. However, known organic practices such as worm castings, kelp and beneficial fungi are highly effective but struggle to enter the commercial “conventional” markets.
Desired System and Performance:
  • A generic soil building product that is generating and initiating continued self-propagation of defined beneficial bacteria.
Seasonal Housing for guest workers 
is unavailable in Ventura County 
at an affordable rate and or in a welcoming manner. Throughout the world guest worker housing is made available in temporary “outdoor” environments that are both 
respectful and accepted by the surrounding communities.

Current System and Performance:
  • Unaffordable apartments or run down motels are the current model. Planning commissions general are blocked in granting permits for farm worker housing due NIMBs (Not in my backyard)
Desired System and Performance:
  • Well-designed temporary housing, tent style or module that could be set up without permanent permits. Utilizing the comfortable out door environment for social and recreational activities. Housing protected dorm style with mess hall dining. Think “camp” in the good sense of the word.

Have a question about one of the challenges? Ask us below.

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