Program 5

Texas A&M Capstone Program

Partner: Texas A&M - BAEN Capstone Program

Each year, STAR works with Texas A&M University and provides a Capstone project for the BAEN (Biological, Agricultural Engineering) senior students as well as the AGSM (Agricultural Systems and Management) senior students. STAR provides the resources and stewardship for these “Senior Class Projects” which are publicly presented in the Engineering technology showcase event each May.

The detail below is the project synopsis presented to the students in September. We work with the groups of students that visit our facilities through the academic year to help them achieve a satisfactory solution to their project.

Water-Energy-Crop Analysis for Optimal Land Management & Irrigation Huisache Pasture (Aguilares, TX) 2020-2021


1. Deliver irrigation water to a 100 acre tract in the Huisache pasture utilizing solar
power and existing impounded water in an adjacent livestock pond. While a water well could supplement the capacity of the livestock pond, water treatment will be required to reduce dissolved solids to a level acceptable for agricultural production.
2. Determine the best option for a cash crop, whatever it may be, considering the annual rainfall, irrigation system capacity, soil type, and other climate factors.
Scope: The area is traditionally underutilized for agriculture due to the harsh environment. A solution for the development of a sustainable agricultural model will benefit the area by providing alternatives to the ranchers and local communities. In addition, this South Texas area can be seen as a hotspot whose challenges and potential solutions could have far reaching benefits globally.

Design Objective: an irrigation system that serves the 100 acre tract with the best delivery for the selected product.

1. Analyze the relevant conditions with the goal of enabling selection of the most suitable crops with the highest likelihood of success and the greatest commercial viability. There is no limitation on the selection, or combination of items, anything from cotton, olives, hops, onions, alfalfa, grapes, coffee, etc. could be considered.
2. Provide an irrigation design, considering energy, water, and climatic constraints. Known Constraints: no commercial power available.

Design Deliverables
Phase I (2020-2021):
1. Detailed design for the irrigation system.
2. Detailed plan for crop selection.
3. Operational business plan that illustrates commercial viability.
Phase II (2021-2022) Implementation of Phase I.

Sponsor commitment

The Huisache pasture is part of a larger ranching operation. There are other facilities on the ranch such as housing, existing water wells, and equipment. Lodging is available for up to 8 people on the ranch, within 3 miles of the study area. The ranch is located 12 miles South of Aguilares, TX on Jennings Rd. in Webb County.

The budget demand for phase I of the Capstone program is relatively low, with an annual cost of $8,000 to cover travel, lodging, scientific samples, and supplies.
Phase II will be implemented following the budget developed by the students. 2020 is the fourth year of the program and will yield enough data from the combined business plans delivered by the student groups over the last 4 years to final implement a viable solution in the 100 acre project area.