Meet Matt Hardy, Boulder alumni and Founder of LeafLux. LeafLux is a specialized light panel that uses computer vision technology to eliminate the light waste gap and create a more energy-efficient, cost-effective method for growing plants.
Matt transferred to CU Boulder after earning degrees from Kentucky, Duke, and KTH Institute of Technology. He is currently studying Aerospace Engineering Sciences and Biology. Matt is involved with a NASA fellowship and is working with NASA to further develop his product, LeafLux.
In a previous graduate program, Matt took a gap year and worked at various NASA centers, but often felt his work was too disconnected from the final product. He decided that the best way to make an impact would be through a Ph.D. or startup. At the end of his gap year, Matt was conducting research at a Utah State greenhouse and identified an extreme inefficiency with modern lighting techniques. It was then that he thought of the idea for LeafLux. He pitched this idea for a NASA fellowship and received funding that allowed him to fully pursue and develop LeafLux. With the help of NASA and CU Boulder’s Get Seed Funding, Matt has been working hard to develop LeafLux and increase lighting efficiency while eliminating waste!
LeafLux stemmed from a project Matt worked on while interning at Utah State under Dr. Bruce Bugbee. During his time working in a greenhouse, he observed the efficiencies of different lighting techniques for plants in controlled environments. He focused on identifying the best lighting practices for growing plants on various space missions. During this process, Matt realized that these lighting practices were inefficient and caused large amounts of light waste, leading to unnecessarily high electric and cooling demands within the environment, which can be extremely costly in space settings. Matt identified this wasteful process and set out to solve it by creating a specialized LED panel that uses computer vision technology to image where plant canopies are and release a specific light that shines only where the plants are located. This process aims to minimize the light waste gap and create a more efficient method, and is especially important when working in space!
While at CU Boulder, Matt pitched his idea to Get Seed Funding where he was given enough money and support to purchase a quantum sensor to help further his research. He also connected with several people within the Engineering, Business, and Biology departments who provided him with more insight in other fields of expertise. Developing these connections were extremely beneficial for Matt’s research due to being the only person at his company.
When Covid-19 began, Matt struggled to make connections with people in his industry. Many networking events had been canceled due to the pandemic, leaving him in a difficult position for growth. There are some components to LeafLux that require knowledge from those who have skills in other fields beyond Matt's frame of reference. Matt elaborates,
“I think the hardest lesson is yet to come but I'm beginning to realize where I can advance and where I should try to seek help elsewhere. That's probably the most difficult part. Traditionally, I would try to oversee everything, make sure everything is working, and understand all the ins and outs of everything. I think past a certain point, that's just not going to be feasible.”
Matt will be visiting the Kennedy Space Center, where many plant studies are conducted, to assist with their current projects and share his ideas for LeafLux. He is very excited about this opportunity to connect with the Kennedy Space Center team and see how LeafLux can interface with existing growth systems on the International Space Station.
Advice for Current Students
Matt provides the following advice for current students,
“It's important to enjoy yourself! Try not to take school so seriously to the point that it consumes your entire life and you miss out on everything that life has to offer. This will also help you to avoid a burnout.”