Lancaster Engineering student reaches final of prestigious national competition

Alvira Kumar and the Thorn concept
Alvira Kumar and a CAD image of the Thorn concept

Lancaster student Alvira Kumar, with her business concept named Plantara, has created a product called ‘Thorn’. This contains carefully selected sensors to read the important factors plants need to survive and thrive. These include sensors for pH, soil moisture, sunlight, soil nutrients, as well as the temperature of the soil and atmosphere.

The device is powered using solar energy and the data is sent to an app, which interprets it clearly for gardeners so they can make informed decisions on what to plant where.

Miss Kumar is one of ten finalists from universities across the country to have reached the final of the national round of the ‘Engineers in Business Fellowship’ competition. They are competing for a share of a prize worth £10,000 in cash and mentoring from a Sainsbury Management Fellow.

The competition involves a public round of voting where people can choose their favourite business idea. People can cast their vote by visiting

The final takes place on October 26th.

Professor Allan Rennie of Lancaster University’s Engineering Department said: “This is the first time that Lancaster University has entered the Engineers In Business Fellowship ‘Champion of Champions’ competition, so we are very excited that Plantara has been shortlisted to the final ten for the Grand Final later this year.

“Congratulations, and the very best of luck to Alvira Kumarat the final.”

Plantara was one of four business ideas by teams of Lancaster engineering students that received investments after an ‘Engineers in Business Fellowship’ competition held within the university.

The competition formed part of the undergraduate module ‘Business Development Project’ and involved 161 second-year Engineering students competing in 15 teams.

Plantara was one of two concepts awarded £1,000 funding from a total prize fund of £3,000.

The prize money, which was provided by the Sainsbury Management Fellows (SMF) in the form of an ‘Engineers in Business Fellowship’, and presented by Mike Astell from the SMF, was used to further develop their business idea and prototype.

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