sustainability collab

Houston company partners on well pad restoration project in the Permian Basin

In a new partnership with Apache Corp., researchers at BRI and Texas Native Seeds will investigate methods to improve habitat restoration efforts in the Permian Basin. Photo via Getty Images

Apache Corp. and the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, have partnered to launch a well pad restoration research project.

Researchers at BRI and Texas Native Seeds will investigate methods to improve habitat restoration efforts in the Permian Basin. The goal is to publish a scientific best practices reclamation document for the Permian operators. Texas Native Seeds is a project of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M Kingsville. BRI works mostly in the frontier of Texas and throughout the Southwest.

The BRI project aims to inform oil and gas industries in the Permian about how changes in the industry’s collaborative approach to restoring end-of-service well pads can benefit local biodiversity and reunite fragmented habitats.

At end of a well’s service life, when the well is plugged, equipment is removed, and the pad is reseeded, which allows it to gradually return to a natural condition. The project’s goal is to help accelerate a better return to nature by considering alternative soil preparation techniques. By adding biochar to improve soil fertility, and incorporating undesirable scrub brush as a vegetative cover to hold soil moisture and discourage grassland animals from foraging on the seeds before they germinate, researchers believe this could be done.

“We are honored to partner with the Borderlands Research Institute on this important effort, which aligns with our mission to meet the growing demand for energy and to do so in a cleaner, more sustainable way,” Jessica Jackson, Apache’s Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety, says in a news release. “For many years, Apache has worked to restore well pads to their habitat potential. To further our efforts to continuously improve, Apache is supporting scientific research at sites in the Permian Basin to study the efficacy of methods for habitat restoration.”

The project will also measure increases in soil carbon to passively sequester CO2 in healthy desert soils, which will support Sul Ross State University student research through BRI.

“We all depend on the energy produced in the Permian Basin to power our lives, and we look forward to bringing valuable science to the table to support enhanced restoration practices in the energy industry,” Dr. Louis Harveson, the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr. Endowed Director of Borderlands Research Institute adds in the release. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Apache on this important research and applaud their leadership on this issue.”

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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