Winning team “FoodErgy” propose to use the exothermic heat of the accelerated composting process to contribute to home heating

Over the weekend of 18 to 20 February, Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Galway City’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in collaboration with the ATU iHub hosted the international “Invent for the Planet” event involving 29 universities from 15 countries across five continents participating in a 48-hour Intensive Design Experience (IDE) to solve eleven global challenges.

The students, from diverse disciplines and institutions, focused on solving three of the challenges, namely: Small-scale Renewable Energy Resources; Disaster Resilience Food-Energy-Water infrastructure; and the Digitalization of Seafood Production. The latter was proposed by the Irish sponsors and was the most selected challenge with 21 of the 97 international teams choosing it.

Atlantic Technological University (ATU) is the first Irish third-level college to host the event which took place in multiple global locations simultaneously. In 48 hours, the students had to form a team, develop a solution, create a prototype, produce a 90-second video and a 10-minute presentation to pitch their idea to a judging panel. The winning team, “FoodErgy”, proposed to use the exothermic heat of the accelerated composting process to contribute to home heating. The team are Sean Andreassen (from Lahinch, Co Clare ), Year 3, Energy Engineering student, ATU; Piotr Kirche (Łódź, Poland, currently living in Galway), Year 3, Biomedical Engineering student, ATU; Jonathan Orpen (from Killybegs, Co Donegal), Year 1, Mechanical Engineering student, GMIT; James Britton (from Mountcharles, Co Donegal), PhD student, Bioprocess Development, UCD; and Manuel Bruch (from Dublin , originally Tönisvorst, Germany), PhD student, Biotechnology, UCD. Speaking about their win, the team said: “’Our aim is to change the public mindset on food waste, utilizing it for renewable energy through a new technology that can be shared globally in the fight against climate change.”

This year’s national leg of the event was sponsored by a number of national agencies, Government departments, research centres and technology investment firms including: BiOrbic, Bioeconomy SFI Research Centre; Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) – Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Science Foundation Ireland; Irish Bioeconomy Foundation; Marine Institute; Nua na Mara, and Hatch.

Team mentors were Damien Toner, Development and Innovation Executive, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM); Frank Kane, Aquaculture Section, Marine Institute; Dr Majbritt Bolton Warberg, Blue Bioeconomy Programme Manager, Marine Institute; Niall O’Rahelly, Ireland Aquaculture Community Manager, HATCH; Dr Joanne Casserly, Scientific and technical officer, Marine Institute.

Judges were Dr Jamie Downes, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Marine Institute; Cliodhna Ni Ghriofa, Business Development Manager, Nua na Mara; Niall O’Rahelly, Aquaculture community Manager, HATCH; Dr Carine Gachon, Transcend Project Manager, ATU Galway City; and Dr Oliver Mulryan, Head of Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, ATU Galway City.

Dr Jack Saad, lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, ATU Galway City, and event organiser says: “The event gives the student a chance to demonstrate their cognitive abilities. Over the two days it was amazing to see the metamorphosis of the teams, from people who didn’t know each other to a collaborative team of friends who pushed each other to the limit of their abilities. Their imaginative solutions to global problems were inspirational.”

“The most picked up challenge was ‘Digitalization in Seafood Production’ which was submitted by our Irish sponsors; 21 teams out of 97 have globally worked on providing solutions. Great appreciation goes to our sponsors for their efforts to attract the global attention to this essential and crucial statement.”

Turlough Rafferty, Operations Manager, ATU Galway City Innovation Hubs and event co-organiser, says: “Invent for the Planet provides a learning platform for students to engage in challenges effecting the planet today. In a 48-hour design sprint, students form egalitarian collaborative teams to come up with an innovative sustainable solution for positive change. A daunting but very rewarding creative endeavour”.

Dr Oliver Mulryan and Dr Carine Gachon, ATU Galway City Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, paid tribute to all the participants, sponsors and the mentors who gave their weekend to the event. “Thank you for your time, advice and guidance and to all local industries who continually support and enhance the students’ learning experience. Your continual support is greatly appreciated and long-term leaves an indelible mark on the students’ learning and college experience.”

Damien Toner, Development and Innovation Executive, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), says: “The teams have shown a capacity to quickly identify problems in the Global Aquaculture sector and to identify potential solutions. Their enthusiasm and skillset is infectious and bodes well for future Irish based research and development commercialisations”.

Dr Majbritt Bolton Warberg, Blue Bioeconomy Programme Manager, Marine Institute, says: “I was delighted to be involved in Ireland’s inaugural Invent for the Planet held in ATU iHubs this past weekend. Now more than ever we need to look across and bring together different disciplines to find solutions to global challenges. To see people from different backgrounds with no or very little knowledge of a topic, come together, develop and then present a well thought out solution after just 48 hours was incredible. Congratulations to all the Irish participants, you’ve all done something you can be very proud of”.


Note to editors: Below are further comments from the judges and mentors:

Dr Jamie Downes, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Marine Institute, says: “It is an excellent initiative and great to see people from different background come together to form multidisciplinary teams to solve world problems. It’s a brilliant event and I hope to see it grow steadily in the future”.

Niall O’Rahelly, Ireland Aquaculture Community Manager, HATCH, says: “All participants displayed excellent talent and demonstrated superb transferable skills to solve problems outside their chosen discipline, and it was nice to see engineering students solve aquaculture problems”.

Frank Kane, Aquaculture Section, Marine Institute, says: “It was great to see initiatives like this bringing together bright young minds from a variety of Irish Colleges and Institutions to address and tackle global issues”.

Ms Cliodhna Ni Ghriofa, Business Development Manager, Nua na Mara, says: “It was a fantastic event and great to see the students’ enthusiasm”.

Picture captions: [Photos by Aengus McMahon. No repro fee].

Photo 1.

The winning team at the ATU-hosted “Event for the Planet” international event: L to R: Sean Andreassen from Lahinch Co Clare, Manuel Bruch from Dublin, originally Tönisvorst, Germany, James Britton from Mountcharles in C. Donegal, Jonathan Orpen from Killybegs, Co Donegal and Piotr Kirche, Łódź, Poland, currently living in Galway.

Photo 2: Back row, L to R: Dr Carine Gachon, ATU, Gabriel Farragher, Frank Kane, Damien Toner, Cliodhna NiGhriofa, Dr Orla Flynn, Dr Majbritt Bolton, Dr Joanne Casserly, Dr Jamie Downes, Mr Niall O’Rahelly, Dr Oliver Mulryan.

Front row, L to R: Dr Jack Saad event organiser, Mr James Britton, Mr Jonathan Orpen, Mr Piotr Kirche, Mr Sean Andreassen, Mr Manuel Bruch.

Photo 3: L to R: Ikechukwu Ogbuchi, Patrick Gaffney, Ronan Magee, Sean Cooney.

Photo 4. L to R: Mark Carroll, Xing Ying Chuang, Cara Cleary.