OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | TeamWise: BitGrange
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TeamWise: BitGrange

Sales can be tough for farmers and agricultural workers. Depending on farmer’s markets and corporations to buy your crops can lead to massive amounts of surplus. With the recent events surrounding COVID-19, farmers across the country had to dump produce due to supply chain disruptions and lost a number of their customers. For consumers, this meant food shortages.

Alfredo Costilla-Reyes is working to make farm-to-consumer sales easier with BitGrange. The idea is simple: farmers set up shop on the BitGrange website and are automatically connected to thousands of consumers. From there, consumers collectively purchase items in bulk at a lower price through social shopping—a method of e-commerce where groups of people can buy together at wholesale prices.

Born in Toluca, Mexico, Alfredo studied electrical engineering at the National Autonomous University of the State of Mexico and has recently earned his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.

“I come from a family of farmers. My dad was a farmer as well as my grandparents, so the connection was kind of natural.” When he first arrived in College Station, Alfredo started volunteering with kids at local schools, teaching them about agriculture, and showing them how to grow their own food.

“Immediately, I saw a disconnect: the kids didn’t know how or where their food was produced.” This disconnect was the inspiration Alfredo saw for creating BitGrange. His work has become a success in his hometown, even landing him a recent television interview, focusing on the current challenges of the food and agriculture industry between the US and Mexico.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’m chasing my dreams,” he said. “My vision for BitGrange is to one day I could use my technology to provide a safer and more transparent food production chain internationally.”

Through OwlSpark, Alfredo hopes to continue to shape his ideas and develop his final product. “If you go through OwlSpark with an idea and finish with the same idea, you’ve failed. I think that ideas often are not fully formed. OwlSpark allows you to fail fast and fail forward, and I love that.”

As a solo founder, Alfredo says it can be hard but has its benefits. As a person with a strong technical background, learning about marketing, public speaking, negotiation, and all of the other aspects of launching a business has proven to be a tall task, but he’s enjoying the process.

Outside of BitGrange, Alfredo enjoys photography and cinematography (he recently created a video for BitGrange—check it out!). He is also the proud new owner of a video drone, which he plans to use to shoot videos for BitGrange. He also enjoys Latin dance, specifically Salsa, Bachata, and Meringue.