Grain Weevil wins the 2021 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize

The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Award was held for collegiate student inventors recognized for groundbreaking, patentable solutions. Grain Weevil, a company currently in The Combine Incubator, was one of the seven companies awarded.

The Lemelson-MIT Program has helped thousands of students and educators learn to invent and has recognized hundreds of collegiate and midcareer inventors for 25 years. Our research offers evidence that our creative, transdisciplinary problem-solving approach known as invention education helps students of all backgrounds develop interest, confidence, and capabilities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Below is part of the Press Release from the Lemelson-MIT Announcement:

"Following a year that demonstrated the importance and practical applications of scientific advancement and invention, the Lemelson-MIT Program announced seven winners of its annual 2021 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize today, World Intellectual Property Day. The program awarded a total of $90,000 to four graduate students and three undergraduate teams from across the country. The majority of winners have filed for patents, while others have been awarded full or provisional patents. Their inventions range from an innovative approach to plastic pollution in Uganda, to self-driving wheelchair technology.

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Grain Weevil: Benjamin Johnson and Zane Zents, University of Nebraska Omaha, $10,000 Undergraduate Team Winner

Benjamin Johnson (left) and Zane Zents (right), photo by Cecil Smalley Photos


Large grain bins are used to store surplus grain supplies and allow farmers to hold their yield for higher prices. Managing grain condition and extraction require farmers to physically enter the grain bin, which is difficult and dangerous, often trapping and even killing farmers. A lack of proper management and extraction systems cause a 30% loss in cereal grain value worldwide. The Grain Weevil is a grain extraction and bin management robot that scurries across the top of the grain within a bin, smoothing out clumps so that the grain can be properly aerated and easily extracted from the bin. This device helps farmers safely and efficiently manage the extraction of grain from the bin, as well as maintain grain quality while in storage.

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Winners were selected based on the overall inventiveness of their work, the invention’s potential for scalable commercialization or adoption, and youth mentorship experience.


Collegiate inventors interested in applying for the 2022 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize can find more information here. The 2022 Student Prize application will open in late spring 2021."

Revolutionizing Grain Bin Technology

About The Combine:

Invest Nebraska’s Combine Incubator is a statewide initiative focused on supporting high-growth agri-food entrepreneurs through mentoring, commercialization support, physical incubation space on Nebraska's Innovation Campus, and a network of supporting farmers and ranchers across the state. Invest Nebraska is a private, non-profit statewide venture development organization focused on high-growth companies in Nebraska and growing the state’s entrepreneurial economy. Invest Nebraska works directly with entrepreneurs, researchers, and companies to help commercialize their technologies, launch and grow new businesses, and access needed capital.