Hydroponic Device for Growing Cannabis at Home Wins Annual BU Start-Up Competition

The BU team’s hydroponic device is designed to make growing weed at home easier and more sustainable. The team won $10,000 for their project as part of the annual BU Student Start-Up Competition.

A hydroponic device for growing cannabis at home has won the annual BU Start-Up Competition. The project, which started with a professor’s idea and was developed by students over two years, will help patients to use less pesticides on their plants while giving them more control of what they’re eating in terms of pesticide safety levels.

Hydroponic is a method of growing plants without soil. The “what is hydroponics” device was created by the University of British Columbia and won the BU Start-Up Competition.

Hydroponic Device for Growing Cannabis at Home Wins Annual BU Start-Up Competition



Carl Palme, alumnus, wins a $10,000 grand prize for his business Annaboto.

On Wednesday, November 10, the atmosphere inside BU’s BUild Lab IDG Capital Student Innovation Center was buzzing with expectation and excitement as students, alums, and judges gathered for the sixth annual Innovate @BU Cannabis Start-Up Competition. The competition, which is similar to a think tank, features BU-led start-ups whose founders present their business platforms to a panel of judges in the hopes of winning the $10,000 main prize. Finalists are currently working on software, accessories, agricultural goods, and services to help the cannabis business expand.

Annaboto, a firm started in 2019 by Carl Palme (ENG’04, Questrom’12) that enables customers to cultivate cannabis at home in a tiny, hydroponic system, was named the winner this year. To germinate the cannabis seeds, users merely add water once a week, then sit back and watch the plants grow. Artificial intelligence and robots eliminate the need for everyday maintenance.

“The normalization of cannabis is aided by our design.” “You’re making a statement by having this in your home,” said Palme, the company’s CEO. After 100 days, the product, which is particularly developed for indoor use, yields around two ounces of cannabis. An odor management system and a mobile app that enables the user to operate the gadget are also included in the package. The victory was the culmination of years of hard effort for the Annaboto team. They had previously placed in the annual Innovate @BU competition as finalists.

“All of the [prior] input we received from the judges, all of the feedback we received from individuals we talked to was what actually led to the prototypes and expanding the firm,” Palme added. It’s a testimony to this competitiveness, in my opinion.” 

Green Lion Partners, a Denver-based business strategy company created by Jeff Zucker (Questrom’10) and Mike Bologna (Questrom’10), has invested in cannabis firms both domestically and abroad, and is sponsoring the yearly tournament. “It’s critical for us to show that the cannabis industry is a legitimate career option for students and to dispel the stigma associated with cannabis,” Zucker said.

Returning Citizens Venture Program, founded by Jojo Liaw (Questrom’22), Ying Chen (CAS’22), and Marcel Chen (Questrom’22), is a nonprofit that provides individuals with minor cannabis offenses personal and career development; Eleganja, an online platform to amplify Black-owned cannabis brands, was founded by Michelle Matsuba (MED’16), company CEO; and QS Cannabis, a platform where users can monetize their personal data relating to their cannabis use, 

Michelle Matsuba (MED’16), a finalist in the Cannabis Start-Up Competition, presented Eleganja, a platform that helps Black-owned cannabis businesses. Converge Venture Partners partner Peter Bleyleben (right) was one of the competition judges this year.

Jaime Lewis, cofounder and managing partner of Coldwater Consulting; Kim Napoli, a board member of the city’s Boston Cannabis Advisory Board, which aims to strengthen the city’s focus on equity in the new cannabis industry; and Peter Bleyleben, a partner at Converge Venture Partners, were among the judges this year. 

The evening began with remarks from Gerald Fine, executive director of Innovate @BU and a professor of the practice in the College of Engineering; Zucker; Bologna; Joe Gilmore, manager of the city of Boston Cannabis Equity Fund; and Sydney Ballard (CAS’24), head of operations for the Student Marijuana Alliance for Research and Transparency at BU. Marion McNabb (SPH’16), president and cofounder of the Cannabis Center of Excellence, talked about her experience as the competition’s winner in 2017 and her work in the cannabis sector. 

The finalists were given six minutes to present their company, followed by a question and answer session with the judges. Each group presented their company strategy and highlighted how social fairness is incorporated into their business goals. 

“Especially in the cannabis sector, which only exists on the backs of really hard work by activists who came before us, and the pain of people and communities who’ve been disproportionately touched by the war on drugs,” Bologna added. (Black individuals are approximately four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana usage.) 

Attendees and finalists networked over refreshments while the judges deliberated in private. Bologna and Zucker presented Palme with a $10,000 cheque, along with free consultancy services, when the judges reached an agreement.

Palme stated, “Let’s get cannabis out of the basement and into the living room.”

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