Updated: Jan 21, 2020
The 2019 Sustainability Challenge was co-hosted by the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship and Blinc Innovation with the support of event partners Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Lincoln University. These organisations asked the teams to design a business venture that could help achieve environmental sustainability in Aotearoa’s food industry. The venture could meet a challenge in any part of the supply chain, but must fit NZ’s goal of becoming a zero-carbon and low-emissions economy, with exemplar fresh water standards.
The challenge participants, who came from Canterbury, Otago and Lincoln Universities and Otago Polytechnic, had an impressive variety of backgrounds. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students were involved, with a range of areas of study represented, including Science, Commerce, Law, Policy and Governance, Engineering, Environmental Policy and Planning, and Medicine! This diversity not only gives students an opportunity to work in teams they have never worked in before but brews critical thinking and creativity with such a diverse range of backgrounds.
Participant, Nilani Ekanayake, explained how “being thrown into a team full of intelligent PhD students who studied something completely different to me was pretty intimidating. But I learned pretty quickly that combining our different sets of knowledge allowed us to cover a whole range of perspectives and thought processes, which turned out to be a huge advantage!
The judges were very impressed with the pitches, with Paul Ballantine, Head of the UC Business School, saying that the students "did a really great job of articulating what the problem is they were trying to solve. If this is the future of New Zealand business, then we are in really safe hands".
First prize was awarded to Team Kelp’n, consisting of Jaclyn Phillott, Mikaila Ceelen-Thomas, Abel Goremusandiu, and Jack Holloway, with their idea for kelp-based bioplastic food packaging. Cheyne Gillooly, Manager of MPI’s Investment Portfolio, said the decision to award Kelp’n the top prize "was unanimous... we were all impressed at the scale, the thought that had gone into the product behind the idea, and the depth of thinking that had gone into creating it and actually making it workable. The solution presented addresses a real problem for New Zealand which is only going to become a bigger and more important problem to address and is globally scalable."
Second place was awarded to The Silvo-Solution for their proposal for ‘carbon negative meat’ through silvopastoral farming, involving the intentional combination of trees, forage plants, and livestock on the same land.
Team Sproutlabs came third with their at-home food growing system of light and humidity sensing ‘Hex’ seedling pots, supported by an app which allows users to track their environmental impact and order more seeds.
Other solutions included Micro Vertical Gardens which allow people to hydroponically grow produce in their own homes, and GreenerChoice, an app that consumers can use to help identify the most eco-friendly food products while shopping.
Charlotte Berry from Team Sproutlabs thought "the Sustainability Challenge was an amazing opportunity to work with like-minded individuals to create solutions to problems I am personally really passionate about. It was a great environment for learning new skills, in particular, I learnt heaps about new 3D printing technology! As well as learning how to make a business pitch".
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