Robots that can sort e-waste ready for recycling and 100% biodegradable food storage inspired by bananas are just two of the award-winning ideas from the inaugural India-Australia Circular Economy (I-ACE) Hackathon held this month, hosted by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and NITI Aayog Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).

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Almost 80 teams of students and small and medium businesses from India and Australia turned their collective minds to solving the world’s global challenges with a focus on stopping waste and creating sustainable business practices.

The concept of the I-ACE Hackathon originated last year at a virtual summit where the Prime Ministers of both countries committed to working together on circular economy innovation initiatives.

Honourable Prime Minister of India Shri. Narendra Modi expressed his words of appreciation to the young innovators.

"All participants of this circular economy hackathon are winners and commend your spirit to innovate in this times of COVID 19. We are not the owners of all that mother earth has to offer, but merely its trustees for all the future generations to come," Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi stated.

We [India and Australia] must explore ways to scale up innovative ideas and must look at consumption patterns and reduce ecological impact, not only in two countries but for the whole world. Recycling, reusing, eliminating waste and improving resource efficiency should become part of our lifestyle. The Power of youth comes from openness to new ideas, innovation and ability to take risk. The strong India and Australia relationship will play an important role in shaping the post covid world."

Teams of Australia and India’s brightest students and most innovative start-ups targeted problems such as reducing packaging waste, avoiding waste in food supply chains, reducing plastics waste, and recycling critical energy metals and e-waste.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall congratulated all the innovative participants.

"CSIRO has a long history of collaboration and partnership with India on science and research, and we’re excited to be working together on achieving a zero-waste economy," Dr Marshall said.

"This is a big issue for the sustainability of our two countries, and indeed humanity, but it is a wickedly complex problem, and it will take many minds working together to solve.

"We believe industry and environment can be partners, instead of competitors, and we believe sustainability can be profitable – delivering economic returns and jobs, while also protecting our environment."

Mission Director and Additional Secretary, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog Mr. R. Ramanan thanked all the participants, organizers and others involved in the event.

"The IACE Circular Economy Hackathon is a splendid example of innovation collaboration between India and Australia resulting from the commitments of Honourable Prime Ministers of Australia and India for responsible production and consumption in the virtual summit last year,” Mr. R. Ramanan said.

“Atal Innovation Mission is proud to have partnered with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, in the launch and execution of the same resulting in some incredibly exciting ideas / innovations from the student and startup community of both the nations."

Four student teams and four SME teams each from Australia and India were awarded across the four themes. The winning teams are:

Australia:

  • Charopy (Sydney, NSW) created a ‘Smart Bin’ solving soft plastic contamination by only accepting eligible containers and supplies real time data to sustainability managers to monitor impact and reduce costs.
  • Two Monocles (University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC) are focused on food delivery services without all the plastic. Box’Em is a reusable packaging service that partners with food delivery platforms to offer reusable containers for their deliveries via an app.
  • Trofica (Sydney Knowledge Hub, NSW) pitch was two-fold: an AI platform for farmers to help make sense of the data available to them, and a system for converting waste into plant available nutrients – providing stable sources for farmers.
  • Plasticombat (University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW) will connect Australia’s National Foodwaste Baseline report and behavioural economics, connecting farmers to families and drive more conscious consumption.
  • GreenBatch (Perth, WA) is giving plastic waste a new life! Buying platform ‘Plastic Connect’ will connect manufacturers with plastic products – preventing the product from entering landfill.
  • The Planet Puff Girls (University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW) are pitching the introduction of the world’s first digital B2B marketplace for planet-friendly packaging. Through their marketplace, you can select greener packaging options, calculate your impact and more.
  • Lyro (Brisbane, QLD) is bringing Wall-E to life; building robots to sort through e-waste to sort and find materials that can be re-used and recycled.
  • E-waste to Energy (Monash University, Melbourne, VIC) team is looking to revolutionise the way in which batteries are recycled – offering an opportunity to tackle a real source of waste, whilst creating jobs and a new market.

India:

  • Team-Bambrew is proposing a 100% water and tamper proof packaging product is made entirely from bamboo, offering a new way to transport food and other products in a sustainable way.
  • ModernPackers presented ‘panel-it’ - a sustainable, modular packaging solution which minimises the amount of material used.Using modular, inter-connectable panels which don’t require adhesives, the panels snap together and are an eco-friendlier packaging solution.
  • Adapt India designed cloud-connected sensors that give real-time information of your consignment anywhere on the planet, meaning you will know how your products are being maintained while in transit.
  • Burpp will use data analytics and machine learning to prevent 350,000 meals going to landfill in three years.
  • Recycle X are India’s first start up to manufacture building products from plastic, industrial and C&D waste that is eco-friendly, cost-effective, recyclable and certified.
  • EcoDabba were inspired by the practice of storing food in banana leaves and offer a 100% biodegradable food storage packaging that quickly biodegrades, replenishes the soil, and creates value for farmers.
  • Ziptrax Cleantech winning pitch uses Internet of Things (IoT) tech to monitor and improve the performance of their Li-ion batteries – a cleaner, safer, and more eco-friendly battery source.
  • Ecosafe is bringing waste producers together, pitching the development of an app that brings producers of waste together with the recycling units, refurbishing units, and repurposing units all under one roof.

I-ACE is generously supported by the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER), AIM Atal Incubation Centre network, and various domain experts.

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