The Story of Evie, the Mobile Greenhouse

On March 3, 2017 a rickety Shasta trailer with rotting walls rolled onto SMU’s campus. The doors were duct taped shut to hold it together. The once white siding had turned yellow after years of weathering. The two-toned orange striping on the side gave away the trailer’s mid-1980s birthday.

In tiny white lettering painted over an orange stripe, the Shasta greeted the Hunt Institute team with the message, “Friendship 16.”

The team called in a professional, The Trailer Guy, to redo the trailer. Alejandro Dominguez Garcia, a student analyst at the Hunt Institute, said that he was glad the little Shasta was in such bad shape. “It allowed us to start from scratch and completely make it our own.”

After the trailer was fixed up, it was time for the real work to begin.

Research: Phase I, or Why did the Hunt Institute buy an old trailer in the first place?

The Hunt Institute was founded to combat the effects of poverty through the intersection of innovative research and practical application. Around the world, people are confronted with a lack of clean and plentiful water, an absence of nutrient rich soil, problems associated with extreme climates, and inadequate space. For many, this translates to food insecurity. Finding a solution that combats these constraints on agriculture in urban areas became a top priority for the Hunt Institute.

This problem is not exclusive to places on the other side of the world. In fact, food insecurity is all around us. Half of South Dallas is considered a food desert, according to a 2011 study by the US Department of Agriculture. A food desert is an area that lacks access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the South Dallas area relies on convenience stores and fast food restaurants for meals because large, well-stocked grocery stores are not readily accessible by public transportation.

“Food insecurity is a crippling experience that families face every day,” said Dr. Eva Csaky, Director of the Hunt Institute. “Even in American cities, some communities have limited or no access to healthy food options, which can lead to health and social consequences down the line.”

The need for mobile, low-cost, automated agriculture was apparent. The solution: a mobile greenhouse named Evie.

Why mobile? Most people around the world do not own their own homes. When people move, for whatever reason, they should not have to leave their food source behind. Why low cost? Imagine that people around the world, regardless of their economic limitations, had the option to invest in a mobile greenhouse. People could supplement their diets with fresh fruits and vegetables, or supplement their income by selling produce. Why automated? Agriculture is an investment that requires time and specific training. Not everyone has the technical ability to monitor and adjust growing conditions. An automated system sets everyone up for success, regardless of background knowledge.

So, why did the Hunt Institute buy an old trailer in the first place? Sustainability. The old Shasta trailer could be retrofitted to serve as the prototype of the mobile greenhouse. When something old has the potential to be repurposed, there is no need to build something new. The Hunt Institute was able to save precious resources through this major recycling effort. On a global scale, people are more likely to have access to an old trailer than a new building. With a lot of elbow grease, any trailer can become an optimized growing space.

The idea of a “Greenhouse for Good,” a mobile, low-cost, automated agricultural space, guided the Hunt Institute team as they began the initial research.

What’s in a Name?

As different ideas for turning an old trailer into a mobile greenhouse floated around the Hunt Institute, one major problem remained. What should the project title be? Initially, people tried to name the project something related to SMU, but names like Peruna and Pony Up didn’t make the cut. Finally, someone suggested Evie. And it stuck. Alissa Llort, part of the Hunt Institute’s External Affairs team, shared that Evie was derived from the name Eve. The name Eve is associated with life and beginnings and, as Llort added, “greenhouses go along with that message.”

The motto for the Evie campaign was also important for conveying the meaning behind the mobile greenhouse. The team settled on, “Plant where you are, grow where you go.”


On April 20, 2017, the Hunt Institute was ready to unveil Evie at Earth Day Texas. Kids, parents and Big Tex took turns admiring the red and white trailer. Even though Evie wasn’t named after SMU, there was a large mustang painted on the back. The red bottom half of the trailer and white roof were interrupted by a blue stripe in the middle. This trailer was unmistakably the product of Southern Methodist University’s modern, interdisciplinary, world-changing students.

Throughout the day, kids were able to plant seeds and learn about agriculture. Evie: Phase I was about creating the mobile greenhouse. Once the greenhouse was created, Evie could take some time to focus on education.

While reflecting on unveiling Evie, team lead Adrienn Santa said, “It is important to educate people, encourage them to grow their own vegetables and fruits, and to eat healthy food every day.”

Research: Phase II

In elementary school, most kids learn that living things need food, water and shelter to survive. For plants, that translates to soil, water and sunlight. A mobile greenhouse presents some serious problems when it comes to meeting those needs. Shasta trailers were not designed to facilitate irrigation, allow for direct sunlight, and certainly don’t come fully stocked with nutrient-rich soil. Student Fellows at the Hunt Institute had to research innovative solutions to compensate for the resources taken away by the ease of mobility.

Evie: Phase II is focused on the optimization of growing. How can Evie consistently and reliably use water? How will Evie manage heat waves and cold snaps? SMU students and Hunt Institute Fellows have been busy trying to answer those questions.

3Dponics is an open-source initiative that combines aeroponics and 3D printing. Aeroponics uses precise irrigation in a way that allows plants to grow without soil. This makes it possible for plants to grow in areas without good soil due to environmental conditions, urbanization or natural disasters. 3D printing using the Fused Depositions Modeling 3D Printers helps reduce the cost of complex aeroponic systems, making gardening more accessible to disadvantaged communities. Alejandro Dominguez Garcia and Alec Maulding are working on research and development for this portion of Evie: Phase II.

Heating and cooling was a major concern when developing Evie: Phase I and researching Evie: Phase II. Adrienn Santa analyzed solar power, heat absorption, and the refrigeration cycle of the mobile greenhouse. The goal of this research was to find a sustainable solution for cooling small greenhouses.






Evie Today

Mark your calendars for April 20, 2018. Evie will be back on exhibit at EarthX 2018 and you can have the first look at the new improvements to the solutions lab. Evie still has teaching to do and lives to touch. Phase II of research and development is underway, but isn’t done yet. With Evie Phases II and III, we hope to get even closer to the bigger dream of combating the effects of poverty through innovation and compassion. We invite you to become a part of Evie’s story. Please click here to get involved.



Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Photos by: Alissa Llort, Laura O. Graham and Corrie Harris

Graphic designs by: Alissa Llort

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookand Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing

Hunt Institute Seminar Series: Just Change

November 8, 2017

Hunt Institute Seminar Series was proud to host Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, author of JUST CHANGE: HOW TO COLLABORATE FOR LASTING IMPACT, this week during our Seminar Series. In her book, Just Change: How To Collaborate For Lasting Impact, Boyea-Robinson shares her experience investing in cities and leaders across the country. The goal of Just Change is to help readers understand what’s working, what’s not working and why in order to improve their own communities.

Attendees arrived at the Institute despite the cold and rain and quickly filled the room with conversation, networking with colleagues and meeting new friends in the social impact space. The talk focused on the collaborative best practices Boyea-Robinson writes about in her book based on her extensive experience. The room was energized with her passion as she engaged the audience telling her story, showing up, and being transparent.

Tynesia has been a featured speaker for a broad array of audiences including South by Southwest and the White House Council for Community Solutions. She has published several articles, which have been featured in the Washington Post, Forbes and in Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity. Her work was also highlighted in the New York Times bestseller A Year Up as well as in the Harvard Business School case study Year Up: A Social Entrepreneur Builds High Performance. She serves on numerous boards and committees and recently accepted an appointment in the Hunt Institute as a Fellow.

She opened with this powerful statement, “I believe our country’s intractable problems are solvable because I meet leaders every day who are solving them. Just Change will help you learn from these leaders so you can have lasting impact in your community.” Her primary focus hovered on the outcomes portion of the material on system based changes applied to social sector work. Visit our YouTube channel for a recording of the presentation.

Interdisciplinary students smile and pose for the camera in between their duties at the seminar
Left to right: Tristan Knotts, Kim Strelke, Sara Langone, Wendy Alyea

At the end of the talk, Anna Clark, co-founder of the Inclusive Economy at the Institute, facilitated an interactive Q&A. Various members of the audience participated and joined the conversation about how to bring about lasting impact. Afterwards, Boyea-Robinson autographed copies of her book and interacted personally with attendees. Student analysts, interns, and volunteers of the Institute helped host the event then joined the diverse group of attendees discussing their research and listening to lively discussions about various areas of need in the social impact space.

The Hunt Institute Seminar Series features speakers that are actively involved in making lasting impact in resilient infrastructure, sustainable food systems, and inclusive economy. Tynesia Boyea-Robinson is President and CEO of Reliance Methods. Boyea-Robinson’s experience as an entrepreneur, Six Sigma blackbelt, and technologist uniquely positions her to catalyze a results-driven era of social change. In her previous role as Chief Impact Officer of Living Cities, Tynesia was responsible for ensuring $100M of investment produced outcomes that improved the lives of low income people across the country.

In 2011, Boyea-Robinson founded Reliance Methods to help Fortune 500 clients like the Carlyle Group, Marriott, and others change the way the world does business. Tynesia has been leading and writing about enterprises that “do well and do good” for over a decade. As President and CEO of Reliance Methods, she continues to demonstrate how business and community goals can powerfully align towards mutual outcomes.

The next Hunt Institute Seminar in the Series will be held in the spring semester of 2018. Like our FaceBook page to follow us and set your notifications for events to feed into your news feed.

Contributors to this blog article: Ms Boyea-Robinson, Corrie Harris, Maggie Inhofe, and Kim Strelke.

Evie Phase II: Cooling Optimization

Students meeting in the Hunt Institute. Engineers at SMU. Senior Design Project. Evie. Cooling system.

September 27, 2017

Absorption Refrigeration Cycle
The team was out at the State Fair Grounds working on Evie today installing sensors to read temperature and humidity, as well as to measure electricity use for the air conditioner. The team’s objective is to study greenhouse cooling and to design a low-cost cooling system.

The team consists of Abdulaziz Aljaber ’18, Mechanical Engineering Major; Rabin Bastola ’18, Electrical Engineering Major; Osama Alolabi ’18, Mechanical Engineering Major; and team lead Adrienn Santa ’18, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics Major. The senior design team is being advised by Dr. Ali Beskok, Chair of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Eva Csaky, the Director of Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity in Lyle School of Engineering. In addition to collecting data, the team will prepare an economic model, design and build a prototype to minimize colling costs all with the aspiration to have the prototype ready for Earth Day 2018.

Meet Adri

Adrienn Santa ’18

Senior Design Team Leader

  • Mechanical Engineering & Mathematics Major
  • Engaged Learning Fellow 2017-2018
  • Lyle Research Fellow 2017 Summer
  • Full Athletic Scholarhip
  • Athletic Director’s Honor Roll
  • Varsity Letter Winner
  • All Conference Honor – American Athletic Conference
  • Best Newcomer Award – Women’s Swimming and Diving (2014-2015)

“My parents have always encouraged me to help people in need.  The Hunt Institute gives me the opportunity to work on problems which could help people, who does not have enough resources or knowledge, to find solutions to their problems which affects their everyday life.  I am also very passionate about the field of renewable energies, which is an environmentally friendly way to produce energy.  They have a great potential to replace other non-renewable energy sources in the future.”

Adrienn Santa is a senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, pursuing Bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics.  Her studies in engineering have prompted interest in energy generation, because of this she is considering pursuing a Master’s degree in Renewable Energy.

Adrienn was working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Hunt Institute and as a Lyle Research Fellow over the summer which helped her realize the importance of development of urban farming and gardening. Her future goals are to be able to design sustainable solutions for low-income communities and people who do not have access to fresh heathy food.

One potential solution would be to use the vacant lots and buildings for food production. An innovative low-cost heating and cooling system, efficient irrigation system, and vertical gardening would also make urban farming more accessible for communities in need.

Adrienn grew up in a very sustainable family in Hungary, where everything is homemade and all vegetables and fruits are grown in her grandparents’ garden.  This also motivates her to help other people who do not have access to these resources. The reason Adrienn likes working at the Hunt Institute is because it gives her the opportunity to utilize her passion towards creating these solutions.

Adrienn’s favorite free time activity, swimming, took her overseas as she was granted with a full athletic scholarship at SMU in 2014. Other interests of hers include traveling to different places, countries and getting to know other cultures, as well as participating in different extreme sports.


Contributors to this post:

Written by: Kim Strelke

Edited by: Adrienn Santa & Maggie Inhofe

Photo by: Alissa Llort

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookand Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing