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Social innovation challenge tackles food waste in the NT

Charles Darwin University (CDU) engineering students Napoleao Da Silva (left) and Trang Nguyen participate in the social innovation challenge with support from professionals like Lecturer Dr Ulrike Kachel and Student Council Sustainability Officer Jens Cheung (right).
Charles Darwin University (CDU) engineering students Napoleao Da Silva (left) and Trang Nguyen participate in the social innovation challenge with support from professionals like Lecturer Dr Ulrike Kachel and Student Council Sustainability Officer Jens Cheung (right).

A social innovation challenge has kicked off today at Charles Darwin University (CDU), converging brilliant young minds pitching ideas to reduce food waste in the Northern Territory.

For three days from November 26 to 28, several groups of university students and community members from around the Top End are taking up the challenge of reducing unnecessary food waste.

Through pitching ideas and plans to industry judges and mentors, the winning team will receive a $6,000 prize that will fund their innovation project.

Food waste, including food that never leaves farms, lost during transport or thrown in landfill from households and the hospitality sector, poses serious environmental and economic challenges in Australia.

On average each year, each Australian wastes about 312kg of food, equivalent to $2,000-2,500 per household.

Food waste accounts for three per cent of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions and costs the economy $36.6 billion each year.

Organiser of the CDU Social Innovation Challenge and CDU Student Council Sustainability Officer, Jens Cheung, said he looked forward to seeing the NT community bring on a wide range of initiatives tackling food waste.

“There can be many diverse ideas, ranging from using hydroponic systems to grow crop, composting in the kitchen, reducing plastic waste by using degradable plastic and alternative materials, and IT solutions to track the source of food and where it’s going,” Mr Cheung said.

“It’s important to raise awareness about simple everyday practices that the general public can use to reduce food waste, such as food composting.”

“I hope through this Social Innovation Challenge, CDU can get a kickstart to become an incubator for start-ups in socioeconomic innovation in the Northern Territory.”

The three-day challenge also features an expert panel that will provide mentoring support and judge the pitching competition.

CDU Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Innovation from the Asia Pacific College of Business and Law, Dr Ulrike Kachel, is supporting participants in developing start-up ideas that can be applied in local industries.

“The challenge engages people with design thinking, where they can be innovative, creative in solving a pressing problem,” Dr Kachel said.

“The ideas can be further developed and support a circular economy where the food waste can be reutilised as a resource for something else.”

“I also encourage my students to participate in the challenge because it’s a great opportunity to apply what you’ve learned into a real-world problem.”

Bachelor of Civil Engineering student at CDU, Napoleao Da Silva, said he signed up for the challenge to share his ideas in improving food waste management in Darwin.

“The challenge is about seeing and talking about the possibilities in solutions to food waste. Developing and sharing ideas can help Darwin adapt, grow and innovate,” Mr Da Silva said.

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