Words by Jasmine Crowhurst, News Sub-Editor

Student-led projects growing microgreens, using AI to measure biodiversity, tree planting to improve water quality and promoting sustainable fashion will share £20,000 of University of Sussex funding after being chosen as the latest winners of the Pitch for the Planet competition.

Six students competed in a Dragons’ Den style challenge held at the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts on Friday 4th March and pitched their sustainable innovation ideas in a bid to win a share of £20,000 funding and a place on the Sussex Accelerator scheme. 

The entrants were tasked with finding solutions to some of the world’s most difficult problems including reducing energy consumption; carbon capture and/or compensation; reducing water consumption; sustainable education and/or community engagement; protecting or enhancing biodiversity; sustainable food and/or agriculture; or sustainable travel.

Three other students received COP Climate Leader Prizes worth £3,000 each in recognition of their outstanding climate leadership in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow in November 2021. 

The winners of the Pitch for the Planet competition 2022 are:

  • Kimia Goudarzi (£8,000) to create a rental and repair business for pre-loved clothes
  • Timothy Merritt and Daniela Valenzuela (£5,000) to create a social initiative supporting fruit and nut tree planting along Sussex riverbanks
  • Samuel Gandy and Victoria Yates (£4,000) to develop AI technology that identifies and counts species and wildlife living in an ecosystem
  • Jack Zeniewski (£3,000) to grow and harvest microgreens for food

The winners were selected by a judging panel that included University of Sussex Provost Professor Rachel Mills, Hove City Council leader Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, Impact Entrepreneur and Mentor Sara Osterholzer and University of Sussex Council member Richard Zaltzman.

The three winners of the £3,000 Cop Climate Leader Prizes this year are: 

Temilade Salami – Founder of EcoChampions, a group of 200 young environmentalists across Nigeria, leading climate education, tree planting and climate change advocacy. Temilade is the author of two environmental education books for children currently in use in Nigerian primary schools and was selected as a UNESCO and UNFCCC youth observer for COP26 in Glasgow.

Kathryn Cheeseman – Runs a  tree planting initiative since 2019 which became formalised as a not-for-profit in 2021named The Wilding Network. Kathryn has planted over 9000 trees which will sequester up to 9000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 40 years and has plans to expand Wilding Network to include rewilding seascapes and supporting kelp forests.

Ben Mitchell – Helped launch Aquaponics Life CIC, a sustainable closed-system form of food production. Ben is Leading Coordinator of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) Society at Sussex and helped organise four direct local campaign actions around climate action, defending local wildlife and excess consumerism.

Hove City Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said “The projects selected today align with so much of the council’s already published work as part of our Carbon Neutral 2030 plan – including on promoting and developing the circular economy, increasing biodiversity and to providing sustainable food. 

“Today once again demonstrates that students at our universities are clearly rising to the brave technical and technological challenges that we face when pushing for ‘net zero.’ It’s precisely this kind of innovation and thirst for ideas that we will need to navigate the difficult task of reversing climate breakdown, and to support our residents.”

Categories: Campus News News

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