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Environment

Acara Challenge selects student teams to address societal and environmental challenges

Student entrepreneurs from universities in the United States and India will be provided opportunities and resources to further develop innovative business solutions

February 20, 2013

Media note: Two-minute video presentations for each winning team may be viewed via YouTube by clicking the link on each project name.

Seven teams of collaborating student entrepreneurs from universities in the United States and India have been selected winners of the 2012-2013 Acara Challenge, a competition co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the College of Science and Engineering. The selected teams will be provided the opportunity and resources to further develop their innovative business solutions for environmental and social challenges.

Three Gold Level winners will receive $1,500 toward pilot expenses, Silver Level honorees will receive $1,000 and Bronze Level recipients get $500. Winning teams on all three levels also receive four individual scholarships to the Acara Summer Institute in Bangalore, India.

"We are thrilled to be working with talented, enthusiastic students, who are eager to tackle grand challenges globally and locally. Our society is lucky to have an emerging generation of global leaders that exude ingenuity, talent and compassionate vision," said Julian Marshall, Acara co-director and assistant professor of environmental engineering in the university’s College of Science and Engineering . "All of us at Acara look forward to working with these students as they grow their innovative solutions into successful ventures."

The Acara Challenge, which began in 2009, aims to develop students’ experience in real world situations. Faced with the task of improving society, students are taught to seek solutions to a problem that are creative, sustainable and have real impact.

Winning teams include students representing eight different University of Minnesota colleges and schools.

The teams selected to receive further financial support from Acara are:

Gold Level

BlueFood Fish and Greens
This business, developed by a team of University of Minnesota students, will produce year-round, premium fish and greens for the local foods market in the Twin Cities. Selling primarily to high-end restaurants, BlueFood uses proven aquaponics technology to grow mercury-free fish indoors right in their customer’s backyard. Students are from the U’s College of Design, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering.  

Humble Commode
A partnership between the University of Cincinnati and the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorke, India, this business creates sustainable sanitation solutions that harness resources and address contemporary concerns of the Gram Panchayats in rural India. By investing in infrastructure that efficiently harnesses the potential of human waste, Humble Commode increases economic and geographic access to agricultural resources that increase yields and decrease dependence on outside institutions. 

PurePots
Designed by students from the University of Minnesota and Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar, India, this business will offer a clean drinking water treatment method using a water storage vessel and silver-impregnated ceramic filter pot. This easy, affordable treatment solution will enable residents of Bhubaneswar’s Salia Sahi slum pull to enjoy a previously unattainable quality of life. University of Minnesota team members are from the Carlson School of Management, College of Science and Engineering and the School of Public Health. 

Silver Level

Cincivell
This collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and the Vellore (India) Institute of Technology will offer a low tech but highly effective way for the tanneries in Tamil Nadu, India to remove hexavalent chromium from their run-off. The Cincivell design takes an abundant and unused by-product of the local sugar industry, bagasse fly ash, and repurposes it as a filter to capture and remove the pollutant.

Nutricycle
University of Minnesota and Xavier Institute of Management students will seize the opportunity presented by India’s growing composting and urban agriculture movements. Partnering with the Aradhana apartments in Bhubaneswar during their pilot phase, Nutricycle will demonstrate the ability of community composting to improve an existing waste management system, while empowering clients to grow their own fresh, healthy vegetables. University of Minnesota team members are from the College of Science and Engineering and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Bronze Level

doGoodapps
A University of Minnesota student has designed an app store where developers receive exposure in exchange for philanthropy. By donating a significant portion of their revenue to a general fund, developers receive reviews and are potentially introduced to a new user base via the doGoodApps site, while monies donated to the general fund will be distributed to a different non-profit organization quarterly. The student is from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

TurtleKing Workshop
This business, developed by a team of University of Minnesota students, will design, build and sell Minnesota-made longboards. In addition to providing an environmentally friendly means of local transportation, TurtleKing will incorporate a work-training program for local youths into their business structure. Students are from the College of Continuing Education and College of Liberal Arts.

While not receiving additional finances, the following teams will continue to receive institutional support from Acara:

Honorable Mentions

Community Shops
This partnership between the University of Minnesota and Xavier Institute of Management will utilize bulk buying and distribution strategy to bring goods to low-income consumers at a lower price. University of Minnesota team members are from the College of Design and the College of Science and Engineering.

Halki Kursi
Teams from Cornell University and the K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research in Mumbai, India, have created an affordable, compact and ergonomically designed seating solution aimed at Indian women whose livelihood depends on sitting on the ground for long hours cleaning fish and prawn.

Student Organization Partner Award

Tesla Works Labs
University of Minnesota student group Tesla Works is designing an innovative and inspiring lab space for aspiring social innovators on the Twin Cities campus. Students are from the College of Science and Engineering.

To learn more about Acara, visit acara.environment.umn.edu.

Twin Cities Campus: