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Home | Tag Archives: nmsu arrowhead center

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NMSU Arrowhead Center’s business success spotlight: Backyard Farms

It’s plot of land next to the First Christian Church that appears unassuming, especially in contrast with Las Cruces High School’s modern architecture, but if you look closely, you can see a simply built Johnson-Su bioreactor composter creating rich soil for the garden and an outline sections of land ready to grow plants.

For Rachael Ryan, owner of Backyard Farms, the land is a piece of a larger network to cultivate and actively improve lives and farming in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To get from blooming ideas to a full-fledged business, Ryan went through the programs at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.

“First, I had to learn about business to grow Backyard Farms to where it is now,” said Ryan, who is a Ph.D. candidate at NMSU with a background in working as a population geneticist.

In 2017, Ryan joined Studio G, a business accelerator providing free services like workshops on marketing and accounting. That same year, Backyard Farms became a winner of Arrowhead Center’s Aggie Shark Tank competition. After that, Ryan went through the AgSprint, a six-week incubator for agriculturally focused businesses to get on the fast track of success.

“I had no business experience. For example, I didn’t know what a balance sheet was. AgSprint was like going back to grad school,” she said.

Ryan delved into learning as much as she could from the business aspect – the customer discovery, marketing, budgets – to create a sustainable model that could support nonprofit efforts, like working with Las Cruces High School students to get their hands dirty. The students were able to build a working composter and chicken tractor for the garden.

Kristin Gustine, an environmental science teacher at Las Cruces High School, said that many students had never thought about growing their own food, or had a conceptual idea of that cycle in their lives.

“Even for high schoolers, they are more likely to eat a new food if they’ve grown it. It inspires them to learn the story behind their food,” she said.

You might have seen more of the Backyard Farms story if you’ve walked into a Las Cruces local foods market and had a clear carton of

Backyard Farms quail eggs are gaining national and global attention. (Courtesy of Rachael Ryan)

speckled mini eggs catch your eye. Those quail eggs are another component of the business, one that’s even garnered it global attention.

In October 2019, the eggs were served at a charitable dinner event in a collaboration with El Paso’s own Taft-Díaz and Mexico City’s world-famous restaurant Pujol.

But Backyard Farms is not just focusing on the global marketplace, it’s also sharing a bounty with those in need. Some of the produce harvested has been donated to local school programs and food banks at First Christian Church, El Calvario United Methodist Church, and El Caldito Soup Kitchen.

For Ryan, Backyard Farm is also about adapting what comes out of the garden to where it’s planted, like cultivating lettuce that can thrive in July.

“It’s about breeding hardiness because our environment is harsh, not just in the lack of water but low humidity, windstorms and salty alkaline soil,” said Ryan. “Working with Arrowhead Center has opened many doors, like access to marketing, accounting, funding and legal help that small businesses need but often can’t afford in the early stages. Backyard Farms shows that an agriculture business can sustain conservation.”

Along with AgSprint, Arrowhead Center offers programs for businesses in other industries, such as healthcare and clear energy, along with initiatives that focus on ventures from a variety of sectors.

“Arrowhead Center can help businesses get started, no matter where they are in the journey or what their goals are,” said Kathryn Hansen, director of Arrowhead Center. “Our programs can kick off a whole network of opportunities.”

For more information for growing a business or even a business idea, check out the business accelerator programs at NMSU’s Arrowhead Center at Sprints Webpage and Studio-G.

Author: Cassie McClure – NMSU

NMSU Arrowhead Center receives support from Daniels Fund for entrepreneur education

New Mexico State University guides students toward career success, and more and more careers are being built by the entrepreneurial spirit. NMSU’s entrepreneurship hub and business incubator, Arrowhead Center, has a mission to help nurture that career path as well.

Now, thanks to an additional $300,000 Cradle-to-Career Pipeline grant from the Colorado-based Daniels Fund, even more students can explore entrepreneurial thinking throughout their educational career and beyond through Innoventure, Arrowhead’s entrepreneurship education program for K-12 students, and Studio G, its business incubator for college students and recent alums.

“With this continued support from the Daniels Fund, our outreach is going to focus on more in-person presentations and hands-on activities with more students,” said Amanda Bradford, director of Innoventure, an educational outreach program introducing students throughout New Mexico to entrepreneurship.

Bradford said Innoventure aims to strengthen the skills and attitudes that make up an entrepreneurial mindset, such as a willingness to take creative risks, an ability to see challenges as opportunities to try something new, and the resilience to try again when something doesn’t go right. All of these attitudes have been identified by employers and leaders as key to success in the workforce – regardless of discipline.

“We’ve discovered as we’ve grown the program that the best way to capture the youngest students’ attention is meeting them where they are, listening to their ideas and helping them think through the whole process using those entrepreneurial skills like problem-solving and opportunity recognition,” said Bradford.

Through previous support from the Daniels Fund, Innoventure has greatly expanded the reach of two key programs designed to introduce children to entrepreneurship through hands-on learning: Innoventure Jr. and Camp Innoventure.

Through Innoventure Jr., more than 18,000 New Mexico elementary school children learned about entrepreneurship and practiced their

Students get information about the New Mexico Tech Studio G site, one of 13 college and university sites where Arrowhead Center’s student and alumni business incubator has expanded thanks to support from the Colorado-based Daniels Fund. Arrowhead Center has received an additional $300,000 grant to support the program’s continued expansion in New Mexico. | Photo courtesy NMSU

problem-solving and teamwork skills. Camp Innoventure students brainstorm creative business ideas, put together a business model and develop their product to sell at a farmers or artisan markets in their community.

“With these funds,” Bradford said, “we’ll be able to reach even more students in the rural areas, while continuing to build on entrepreneurial learning in schools where we’ve already sparked their interest.”

The latest Daniels Fund support will similarly help drive the growth of the Innoventure Challenge programs for middle- and high school students. Guided by learning modules, videos and worksheets, the teams create a business plan and a simple prototype based on a new theme each preliminary round, and finalists get the chance to participate in a final competition day at NMSU’s Las Cruces campus in the spring.

For college and university students, Arrowhead’s Studio G provides a network of business mentors and accelerator programs set up to support their entrepreneurial ideas and give more heft to their career goals.

Studio G leveraged previous support from the Daniels Fund to create partnerships and open incubator sites at 13 colleges and universities all over New Mexico, including New Mexico Tech, San Juan Community College and University of New Mexico. The additional funding will help continue that expansion.

“The Daniels Fund has been an incredible partner and instrumental in the development and expansion of Studio G in allowing us to help significantly more student entrepreneurs than we would have been able to otherwise,” said Kramer Winingham, director of Studio G. “Through this new grant, we plan to open several new Studio G sites in the state, as well as growing our existing sites while continuing to improve the resources, services and support that the entrepreneurs in Studio G receive.”

Arrowhead Center Director Kathy Hansen said the continued support from the Daniels Fund is a testament to how important these programs are to the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“The Daniels Fund has made a substantial commitment to hands-on entrepreneurship education and training in the state of New Mexico,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to have their ongoing support to allow our programs to continue to grow and reach more students.”

For more about all of Arrowhead Center’s programs that support entrepreneurs of all ages in the region, click here.

Author: Cassie McClure – NMSU

NMSU’s Arrowhead Innovation Fund sees New Mexico investment success

They say it takes a village, and the village of investors in New Mexico would agree.

New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Innovation Fund has seeded investments across the state, and now one of its business investments, Osazda Energy LLC, has grown its own wings to receive more than $1.5 million in grants this year alone to develop their research in solar cells for photovoltaic systems.

“The Arrowhead Innovation Fund is an early stage seed capital fund for promising New Mexico startup companies,” said Carlos Murguia, AIF’s associate fund manager. “We look for ways to give a boost to companies or entities that can aid in the growth of entrepreneurship throughout the state.”

As a part of that village, AIF’s funding led to Osazda Energy through New Mexico roads by way of the New Mexico Start-Up Factory, a program of New Mexico Angels. The Angels are a group of roughly 70 investors who come together to invest in startups throughout the state. In particular, the Angels help encourage the development of university research into marketable ideas through its Start-Up Factory, an incubator the Angels set up in 2012 to commercialize promising technologies.

“We decided to invest into the venture creation platform of Start-Up Factory, which goes around the state and finds interesting intellectual property, licenses it and pair it up with executives and creates a company, thus keeping IP, talent and capital in New Mexico,” said Beto Pallares, AIF managing director. “We believe that it’s a good thing that by helping to invest with NM Angels’ on that platform, it gives the Arrowhead Innovation Fund shots at gold in terms of the companies we can work with and support.”

In this case, the gold from the sun. Scientists Sang M. Han from the University of New Mexico, and David Wilt from the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, created a composite material that meshes carbon nanotubes with silver, the standard metal used to conduct electricity in solar cells and modules. Han and Wilt called it MetZilla, or Godzilla-infused metal, which could potentially extend the life of solar panels to a minimum of 35 years and perhaps even up to 50 years.

But MetZilla needed a chance to conquer the market, a challenge that the New Mexico Angels recognized. It can be difficult to move university-developed technologies out into commercial markets, but if a company can buy a license for the patent of the invention, then it can make its way out into the world. In 2017, the Angels founded Osazda Energy LLC to take MetZilla to market through its Start-Up Factory.

Osazda Energy received $1.5 million in grants to further develop and prove their solar technology from the Durable Module Materials Consortium, or DuraMAT, which groups the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories, research universities and solar manufacturers together in an alliance to build new materials and designs for photovoltaic modules.

At its early stages, Osazda Energy previously received a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Air Force, $50,000 in matching funds from the state Economic Development Department, and an undisclosed investment from the Angels. Small investments – like those early seed investments AIF sends out – helped bolster the company in front of other investors that allows MetZilla be able to tower over the competition.

AIF has commitments for a total investment of $800,000 from New Mexico’s Catalyst Fund, a $20 million “fund of funds” to support New Mexico companies, and $500,000 from the NMSU Foundation, as well as a $300,000 grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program and other private investors.

AIF stands at $2 million in commitments and is looking for companies with entrepreneurs fully committed to growing and scaling their company and who are seeking between $25,000 and $150,000 in investment toward their total seed round fundraising target.

For more information about AIF, visit the website or contact Carlos Murguia at or 575-646-2025.

Author: Cassie McClure – NMSU

NMSU Arrowhead Center’s 2018 AgSprint Business Accelerator Showcases Diverse Cohort

For the second year, groundbreaking innovation is taking place with a cohort of entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector. New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center AgSprint accelerator is in full swing, as the cohort of eight companies looks to disrupt industry status quo.

AgSprint offers innovators in agriculture the tools to perform customer discovery in a cohort setting. Teams selected for the program receive education, mentorship and funding, including $2,000 in participant support and one $20,000 investment.

“We are thrilled to host this exceptional accelerator class,” said Zetdi Sloan, director of Arrowhead’s Sprint Accelerator programs. “This distinct cohort reflects the diverse industries, age ranges, ethnicities and gender that is truly indicative of the New Mexico landscape. We look forward to continue working closely with each team to strategically refine and progress their businesses, by tapping our curated network of mentors, speakers and funders.”

Teams do not need any prior NMSU affiliation to be considered and can participate in the program’s curriculum and weekly workshops virtually or in person. The five-month program is sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and New Mexico Gas Company.

Fifty percent of this year’s companies are women-led and collectively, and 72 percent of Arrowhead’s Sprint Accelerator programs (AgSprint, HealthSprint and BizSprint) are comprised of women, veteran or minority owners.

The companies currently participating in the 2018 cohort are:

— Reap’s data-driven app helps farmers plan and predict crop cycles and comply with regulations and certifications, saving time, money and guesswork.
— Exotic Harvest Gourmet provides fresh, high quality, sustainably grown gourmet foods including escargot, freshwater blue lobsters, organic produce, spices and herbs to chefs, restaurants and those interested in natural foods.
— Wellspring Water Technologies uses unique, proprietary technologies to solve the agricultural, commercial and residential water quality and supply problems that no one else can.
— Dr. Child’s bitter herbal remedies, gathered from the high desert of northern New Mexico, help prevent infection and treat inflammation of the upper respiratory tract associated with the exposure to dry air and altitude. The company uses wild-harvested herbal ingredients that have a long history in herbal medicine and now have a mechanism of action backed by medical research.
— Sustainable Planet Solutions designs solar portable power systems for remote location use.
— GreenAI crop analytics turns data into field ready, actionable decisions to get the most out of every acre.
— FieldMAK’s modular, rugged sensor array will allow on-site, rapid testing for farmers, resulting in better yields, cheaper costs and halted diseases.
— Food-Origins brings the benefits of IOT to high value, hand-picked crops.

The cohort companies have had multiple successes over the duration of the AgSprint program; MagPi Innovations, creators of FieldMAK, secured $25,000 at the University of New Mexico as first place winner of their Business Plan Competition, Food-Origins secured $20,000 at the Startups Ventura County competition, and Systems Technology Solutions, LLC, creator of GreenAI, was accepted into AgriNovus, Indiana’s agbiosciences industry sector initiative.

AgSprint doesn’t just prepare teams for a demo-day, the program prepares them to continue to innovate. Arrowhead accelerators provide additional programs and tools to support teams’ transitions to next steps.

At the conclusion of the customer discovery section of the accelerator curriculum, the cohort participated in a Strategic Doing workshop to plan next steps in their commercialization process. Strategic Doing, developed at the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab, is an innovative thinking/doing process based on agile software development.

The discipline manages the tension around collaboration by teaching participants how to form sophisticated collaborations quickly, move towards measurable outcomes, and make incremental adjustments and pivots as circumstances change.

Each week for the remainder of the five-month program, the teams will meet with business development, investment, and science and technology advisors. In addition, network expertise is supplemented with Enterprise Advisors and subject matter experts from the Arrowhead Innovation Network.

Post-accelerator and beyond, the teams become members of Arrowhead Ventures, a next steps program that keeps teams connected to Arrowhead resources as they continue their path to commercialization.

Services include access to Arrowhead’s enterprise advisor network, online entrepreneurship curriculum models for self-paced learning, eligibility for the Arrowhead Innovation Fund, an early stage seed investment fund, advising and support from the Arrowhead team, follow on funding opportunities and general support for business development and momentum.

The culminating AgAssembly conference will take place on Septeber 6 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. With industry partner New Mexico Gas Company, an Emera Company, the conference offers a chance for the AgSprint cohort to pitch to industry experts and investors.

The event brings together a group of productive local and national ag-market leaders to talk about demands from the frontlines, translating ideas from vision to reality, and the future of agricultural technology.

Author: Lauren Goldstein – NMSU

Business Owner, NMSU’s Arrowhead Center hope to create Jobs, Ecosystem with Biorefinery

In the small Route 66 town of Tucumcari, N.M, scientist and inventor Bob Hockaday recently made a move to help revitalize business in an innovative way.

Beyond the retro hotel and gas station neon signage that characterizes the town, Hockaday purchased a defunct ethanol plant with strategic plans to outfit it as a biorefinery, a business that would create not just jobs, but an ecosystem within the community that is a hub for rural ranchers.

Hockaday is a creative problem-solver and successful scientist with multiple patents and revolutionary inventions and ideas who has spent more than 40 years building a significant contribution to the scientific community. He is president of Energy Related Devices, Inc., a company he founded in 1994 with the ultimate goal to “change the world one energy solution at a time.” Hockaday said his company ERD was “created to manifest the vision that energy can be produced cleanly, simply and economically through technologies modeled on systems in nature.”

The biorefinery expedition is partially a result of collaboration with the Arrowhead Technology Incubator at New Mexico State University. ATI is an intensive startup development program dedicated to bringing technology to market in the areas of water, energy, agriculture and heath care information technology. ATI, which works with Hockaday on a handful of different technologies, was intimately involved in Hockaday’s process, from crafting a business model to financial analysis, to working to secure investors and identify a customer base that will purchase the biorefinery’s bi-product. ATI also conducted an economic impact study in 2015 for the purposes of securing a Local Economic Development, or LEDA, grant.

On June 15, through a LEDA grant from the City of Tucumcari, ERD purchased the former ethanol plant at 1600 Rock Island Road. In partnership with Robert Lopez, a Tucumcari farmer, the company plans to reconfigure the plant as an integration of dairy farming, feedlots, municipal waste, bio-fuel production, and greenhouse farming which can be utilized to obtain a more productive and less water-consuming agriculture. This business synergism takes advantage of the unique features and resources in Tucumcari.

ERD plans to reconfigure the refinery in a series of step modifications. First, the company will clean the site and refurbish the existing truck scale, grain silos and hammer mill to enable grain storage up to 77,500 bushels and to provide milled feed. Additional storage may be added. The second step will be to refurbish and reconfigure the ethanol fermenters to optimize the anaerobic digestion of 32,000 tons of manure, whey and garbage per year into pipeline quality methane and high purity grade carbon dioxide. The third step will be to provide a liquid or solid fertilizer delivery service to farms. The last steps will be to add solar and wind energy cost-saving features and to capture and utilize the hydrogen byproducts from the high temperature digestion process.

“We want to ensure a synergistic relationship with our suppliers and customers, while improving the performance of our farming,” Hockaday said.

In full operation, the plant is expected to employ 20 skilled workers. For now, ERD’s next step is enlisting supplier and customer contracts.

“Bob is pushing the innovation envelope and creating new economic opportunities for his community and for New Mexico,” said Zetdi Sloan, director of ATI. “We are thrilled to have contributed to his successful agri-tech commercialization and startup creation.”

To apply to Arrowhead Technology Incubator or for more information, visit

ATI is supported in part by the U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center for Regional Commercialization.

Author: Lauren Goldstein – NMSU

NMSU Alumni Working with Arrowhead to Develop Technology for Senior Citizens

For Tiara Grant, relocating from Albuquerque to Las Cruces for an intensive 12-week pre-incubation program at Arrowhead Technology Incubator (ATI) was an easy move.

“I knew that New Mexico State University had a strong engineering program,” said Grant. “After researching numerous incubators, I decided ATI could best help me achieve my goals.”

Grant is a NMSU alumni and has worked in the information technology field since 2008, studying areas in information security, secure coding practices and object oriented programming languages, database and network design, IT project management and unified modeling language, or UML. While earning her master’s in computer science, Grant knew she wanted to develop a technology that would focus on senior care.

Her company, Omnius Technologies, will allow her to focus on the development of a technology that will help senior citizens stay independent at home through the use of a personal emergency alert system.

“While at ATI, I hope to explore the market potential of my technology, create a white paper and market/communications plan, and explore SBIR/STTR (Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer) funding opportunities,” said Grant. “I have an intense desire to help senior citizens while reducing the costs associated with hospital stays.”

Grant’s technology is comprised of a personal emergency alert system that will work with wireless sensors to transmit information to a secure cloud server and monitor for potential emergencies 24/7. If an emergency should occur, a trained call representative will first assess the situation through video or a phone call, then contact emergency services if the emergency is deemed critical.

“As the older adult’s transitions through the personas, the application will promote a higher quality of life in an independent living setting, reduce trips to the ER, and take a more proactive approach than the current personal emergency alert devices in fall detection, dementia and Alzheimer location management, treatment management and health and wellness management,” Grant said.

The application will collect data including bathroom usage, wakefulness, food preparation (in case an oven or stove is left on), home temperature, medication adherence and the monitoring of vital signs such heart rate, weight scale, body temperature, blood pressure, respiration and glucose levels, as well as the sensors built into the home to administer and monitor prescription usage.

Grant is also working with Arrowhead Center’s NM FAST program to submit a Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) proposal to fund the development of this technology.

Author: Dana Catron – NMSU

NMSU Arrowhead Center to Promote Local Companies with Crowdfunding Campaign

This year, four companies are participating in CrucesKick, a partnership between Arrowhead Center and the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance (MVEDA). CrucesKick, which launched Feb. 29, is a fast-moving crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise funds and awareness of local companies’ products and offerings

Working together, MVEDA and Arrowhead are combining their expertise in economic development and business assistance to get these crowdfunding campaigns off the ground.

The four participating companies, which include EcoSeal, New Mexico Shrimp Co., BowWow Blends, and Roots Leather Company, have been busy creating their crowdfunding pages and short campaign videos.

“CrucesKick participants have been working with our video production team, campaign strategists, editors, and marketing advisors for months,” said Zetdi Sloan, director of Arrowhead Technology Incubator. “I can’t wait for them to unveil their crowdfunding campaigns to all of their supporters.”

Shannon Murray, owner of BowWow Blends, created a Power Fruit Dog Smoothie after her Golden Retriever Ruby had continual gastrointestinal issues. She sees CrucesKick as a wonderful opportunity and is excited to see where it will take her small business.

“It’s great to be on the ground floor of this type of project, working with Arrowhead and their resources,” Murray said. “We certainly couldn’t have pulled something like this off without all of their help and guidance.”

Another participant, Maria Colato, was born and raised in Guatemala City and created Roots Leather Company to showcase her culture in handbags, boots and accessories.

“CrucesKick is the perfect nursery for our business ideas,” she said. “With their help, now we are reaching high and ‘our roots’ are starting to grow deep and strong.”

Kathryn Hansen, Arrowhead’s director, is eager for the exposure CrucesKick will bring to these companies.

“CrucesKick provides a great opportunity for product promotion and fundraising for our local businesses,” she said. “Arrowhead is dedicated to providing its resources as part of an entrepreneurial environment that supports startups, young firms and expanding businesses.”

Davin Lopez, president and CEO of MVEDA, expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming crowdfunding campaign.

“MVEDA is excited to be part of what we believe to be a first of its kind economic development effort,” said Lopez. “We realize that we cannot just duplicate other programs found elsewhere if we are truly going to foster growth. Instead, we need to be just as innovative as those companies we hope to support, and that is exactly what CrucesKick accomplishes.”

CrucesKick is sponsored in part by the U.S. Economic Development Department’s University Center Program.

To follow the crowdfunding campaigns, visit the CrucesKick page at

Author: Dana Catron – NMSU

NMSU Arrowhead Center wins fifth NSF award for developing innovative technologies

New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center has received its fifth award from the National Science Foundation I-Corps this year.

Created in 2011, the I-Corps is a program of initiatives designed to foster entrepreneurship among scientists and engineers with the goal of commercializing NSF-funded basic research. In October, I-Corps awarded an NMSU-based team $50,000 to conduct market research to commercialize an organic pesticide technology.

I-Corps teams participate in an intensive seven-week course to learn the I-Corps process and interview more than 100 potential customers to understand the market for a new discovery arising out of academic research. I-Corps teams incorporate three members: a student entrepreneurial lead, a principal investigator and a business mentor.

The I-Corps team that won the most recent award has developed a patent pending eco-friendly, organic, plant essential oil-based bio-pesticide called NMX that has been demonstrated to be an effective and safe plant fungicide, bactericide, nematicide and insecticide. NMX has been tested in laboratory, greenhouse, and field trials both in Mexico and the U.S. on a variety of plants, including tomatoes, chiles, jalapenos, bell pepper and turfgrass.

Currently NMX is being tested on representative insects, is being registered with the EPA as a biopesticide and is registered with the EPA biopesticide division as a biochemical.

The pesticide “is an incredible discovery” said team mentor and Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. “We’re very excited to participate in I-Corps to help bring this safe organic pesticide to market.”

Five other I-Corps teams have also been mentored at Arrowhead recently, including a team working on the development of non-weighted digital circuits for low power medical devices aimed at baby boomers. The devices will sense, process and transmit biomedical signals and identify abnormal signals using predefined algorithms and signal processing hardware, and call for help when necessary.

“Getting into a program like NSF I-Corps is really going to assist this very promising early stage technology find the right market application,” said team mentor Jason Koenig.

I-Corps teams based at NMSU are also working on a revolutionary technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions and significantly reduce pollution worldwide, creating and developing learning products using games and animations to help students better understand math, low-cost reduced-gravity technologies that will better prepare astronauts for space missions, and developing portable protection shields for use by civilians during violent attacks.

Author:  Adriana M. Chavez NMSU

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