Climate change is a hot topic. And there is money available for it, as Jelmer van Veen and Priska Prasetya noticed. The two students entered a climate competition and won 25,000 euros past week with their idea for reusing waste water in Vietnam.
Jelmer van Veen and Priska Prasetya met at a Climate-KIC summer school, a five-week European course on which students learn to set up a business. Both Wageningen students got a taste for entrepreneurship at the summer school, and decided to enter the Climate Adaptation Business Challenge, an international competition in which students come up with ideas related to adaptation to climate change.
Priska, ex-student of Urban Environmental Management, and Jelmer, MSc student of International Land and Water Management, developed a plan for purifying waste water in Vietnamese villages and then using it to irrigate coffee plantations. Jelmer: ‘Vietnam is the second biggest coffee producer in the world. But the water supply in Vietnam is diminishing fast as a result of climate change. So the country stands to gain a lot from a new source of irrigation water.’ The students thought up a concept in which the waste water is separated in a special station into compost and nutrient-rich irrigation water.
It was clear from the fact that they got through to the second round that their idea was relevant and good. They then had the opportunity to spend a weekend brainstorming about the idea with experts. After another month of preparation the remaining 15 contestants had to present their ideas to a four-strong jury at the international conference Deltas in Times of Climate Change 2. This was an exciting contest, say the Wageningen pair. ‘The jury was impressed by all the ideas and indicated that they would really like to implement some of the ideas. From that, we didn’t get the idea we were through,’ says Jelmer. But then, in front of a hall full of 500 leading lights, their names were announced as the authors of the best idea. The prize: 25,000 euros. The prize money could even go up if the two also win at the overall finals in Valencia. Jelmer and Priska want to use their money to develop their idea as fully as possible, to the point where it can be implemented with the help of investors.
At the moment there are already concrete plans for taking the enterprise – now called AQGRI+ – to new levels. At the beginning of December, Priska and Jelmer will travel to Lam Dong province in Vietnam to spend two weeks talking to local stakeholders and running workshops. Jelmer: ‘It is super to set up a project like this. It started with a very small idea on a couple of sheets of A4. Slowly but surely it got bigger and more serious. Now we are at the point where it might even become a reality. Entrepreneurship is not scary, but you do need nerve and sticking power to keep going.’