Barron earns Forbes' 30 Under 30 honor

Michael Barron
Michael Barron

Michael Barron, a graduate student pursuing his Master’s in Data Science at the School of Informatics and Computing, has been named to the prestigious Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for Science.

Barron is a senior plant scientist at AeroFarms, which uses indoor vertical farming to grow leafy greens and herbs without sunlight, soil, or pesticides. Barron leads a research and development team in charge of experiment design, implementation, and data analysis, as well as developing growing algorithms for each crop variety. Under Barron’s leadership, AeroFarms has improved the average crop yield performance by anywhere from 44-91 percent depending on the crop variety.

“I am humbled and grateful to have been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list,” Barron says. “It's great to be recognized for your work, but I wouldn't be anywhere near this list if it wasn't for the rest of the AeroFarms team. My job is incredibly rewarding in and of itself, but it is made even more so because I get the privilege of working with such talented, passionate, and brilliant co-workers.”

Barron is a 27-year-old native of Jersey City, New Jersey, who also holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in Environmental Science and Public Policy, and a graduate degree from Louisiana State in Plant, Environmental Management, and Soil Science. He enrolled in SoIC’s Data Science program in 2015 and immediately felt an impact.

“Right from the start, I applied what I was learning in class directly to my job,” Barron says. “The more classes I took, the greater my appreciation became for the intricacies inherent to the field. I think that data science is the future, and Indiana's program has really ignited my passion for statistically-savvy, data-driven decision-making. The Data Science program has been invaluable to me.”

Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list identifies the most important entrepreneurs, creative leaders, and bright stars under the age of 30. Barron’s inclusion marks the second straight year an SoIC alum has landed on the list, following Tarun Gangwani’s appearance last year in the “Enterprise Tech” category.

“We are delighted that Michael’s work has been recognized by Forbes and that we have been able to help him in his endeavors through the data science program,” says David Wild, director of the Data Science program. “We are excited to continue to nurture the next generation of data scientists who are going to impact the world through our programs at SoIC."

AeroFarm uses data science to monitor more than 30,000 data points about the macro- and micronutrients for plants, using aeroponics to mist the roots of the plants with nutrients, water, and oxygen as needed, all without soil or sunlight. LED bulbs provide the optimum amount of light for the plants, allowing the same seeds used in traditional farming to grow to maturity in half the time and with 95 percent less water. The method also allows farming to be done in urban areas, providing fresher food to a dense population without the environmental impact of shipping over long distances.

“Barron’s work is an example of the ways data science can be used to make a real impact on the world,” says Raj Acharya, the dean of SoIC. “His inclusion on Forbes’ list of 30 Under 30 is a testament to his innovative thinking, and he will serve as an inspiration to his classmates in the program.”

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