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Pasadena Student Creates Company to Limit Crop Waste

Published on Friday, November 18, 2022 | 5:54 am

Sabrina Zhang [Image via Linked in]
While the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference has opened a dedicated platform called the Children and Youth Pavilion so children can have an active seat at the table, a senior at the Polytechnic School in Pasadena is proving that plenty of climate activism is happening right here in Southern California.

Seventeen-year-old Sabrina Zhang is a Morgan Stanley Jumpstart Scholar, one of 160 who have been selected internationally to participate in an immersive six-month program run by Morgan Stanley Associates and Executives designed to develop a pipeline of high-achieving high-school students into the business world. She resides in Arcadia.

The program focuses on finance, entrepreneurship, wealth building, career development, and leadership, and culminates in a capstone project where scholars apply the skills to a real-world case study with clients such as Verizon, Twitter, and Amazon.

Zhang is the co-founder of a startup called AgriVision, whose main platform is a robot that uses hyperspectral imaging to analyze plant health and detect diseases in crops, and in the process help fight food waste.

“I discovered that crop loss accounts for a third of food waste, and even within that diseases are responsible for 40 percent of all crops lost in the U.S. alone,” Zhang told Spectrum News recently. “If this problem is so significant but unaddressed, what research and what products can I do to innovate and try to develop a solution to the problem?”

It’s the problem that AgriVision is attempting to address by providing a capability for agriculturists to monitor their crops’ health other than manually inspecting them.

Zhang has a long list of achievements in school, including being National Speech and Debate East LA Representative, a Southern California Debate League State Qualifier, a participant in the CSU Fullerton 2021 Champion Parliamentary Debate, a published National Winner in National Poetry Quarterly, second place in the Southwestern Youth Music Festival for cello, first placer and Grand Prize Audience Award winner in the Satori Music Festival for piano, a Bach Festival Regional Piano Champion, and an international finalist in the Conrad Entrepreneurship Challenge.

She also is a Speech and Debate Captain at Polytechnic, founder of Girls Who Code Club, an instructor and scholar at Kode With Klossy, and a member of the Polytechnic School Ambassador Council, among others.

At AgriVision, their mission is to combat climate change and food waste through the hyperspectral imaging of deadly crop diseases, servicing vital detection and diagnosis.

Since its establishment in 2021, the startup has received $2,000 in R&D seed funding from the George Olah Foundation, won a $1,500 grant by the Delaware Solid Waste Authority Foundation as Diamond Challenge Environmental Sustainability winners, and secured $6,000 in seed funding from the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Competition as grand prize winners.

“What I’m hoping for is that – for other highschoolers like me – they can start to look more into the ways they can act on sustainability and to contribute to society from a different perspective,” Zhang said in the Spectrum News interview. “But at the same time, I’m hoping that AgriVision can grow so that it becomes a global force in helping agricultural technology shifts the ways by which we address food waste and food insecurity.”

Zhang is also President of the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the Asian Youth Liberty League (ALLY), a nonprofit organization that inspires and promotes leadership among the Asian American community. She has organized events with city council members, hosted informational panels, and developed skill-building workshops. She has also helped grow expand ALLY’s program nationally by establishing chapters at new locations.

Zhang was also in the Leadership in the Business World (LBW), an intensive summer program from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for a select group of rising seniors who want an introduction to a top-notch undergraduate business education and the opportunity to hone their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Since 1999, LBW has brought students from six continents and nearly every state to Wharton.

In a discussion published on the Wharton Global Youth Program webpage, Zhang explains her interest in furthering research on crop diseases by hyperspectral imaging.

“Exploring the intersection of agriculture and technology first emerged over family dinners,” she said. “Through a casual conversation about emerging technology with farming, that really got me wondering, ‘well, what exactly are we missing? Vertical farming sounds great but what about traditional farming? Why aren’t we trying to improve the old system along with the development of a new one?’ I dove into a rabbit hole of research and found myself reading about agricultural waste as connected to crop loss and diseases. My curiosity took me down this adventure of, ‘OK, we have a problem but how exactly are we going to solve it?’ And the use of technology to help agriculture seemed natural to me. Technology can do what humans can’t.”

Sabrina Zhang has been selected as The Distinguished Young Woman of North Los Angeles County for 2023 by Distinguished Young Women, the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls.

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