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Smart strip takes out Massey Innovator's Challenge

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Eight secondary school pupils have successfully tackled one of the biggest challenges facing the world - how to cut down on food wastage - to win the inaugural Massey Innovator’s Award and a $2000 University scholarship.

The students were part of the team that took out the competition with the innovative idea of using colour-changing ink on packaging to let consumers know if a food product is still safe to eat. Called the Inkdicator Smart Strip, it uses ink that changes colour as packaged dry goods decrease in moisture and increase in nitrogen.

The competition, run by the Young Enterprise Trust and sponsored by Massey University, was held at the University’s Auckland campus at the weekend. It was part of the first Entrepreneurs in Action weekend, which involved 64 of the country’s brightest business-minded teens. Another 60 students will participate in a second weekend on Massey’s Wellington campus on August 4.

Each year Massey develops a challenge focused on stimulating New Zealand’s economy and future prosperity to test the young entrepreneurs. The University chose food innovation because of its importance to the country’s economy, but also because feeding the world well will become increasingly difficult in coming decades.

"Food isn’t just a way to make money or create employment. It is one of only three commodities - along with water and shelter - that every human on the planet needs to survive," says Dr Jeff Stangl, the Massey Business School’s executive director of education partnerships.

"In simple terms, the world needs more food and better food, sustainably produced. This year’s challenge was to stop food being thrown out prematurely. We were keen to see if these young people could monetise the stretching of best before dates, therefore reducing the impact of food production on the environment. And we weren’t disappointed."

Aside from the winning Inkdicator concept, other ideas pitched during the competition included apps that tracked the food in people’s pantries, highlighting food that was close to expiry with suggested recipes, and smart tags in the caps of milk bottles to show how close the milk was to going off.

Sixty-four student spent a weekend at Massey University's Auckland campus to compete in the Entrepreneurs in Action weekend.

God teamwork wins the day

Year 13 Aorere College student Ruth Tangotongo believed her team took out the competition because of strong teamwork.

"Inkdicator was a winning idea because all of us invested belief and showed passion towards building our idea, especially when presenting it to the judges," she says.

Fellow teammate, Holly Blair from Takapuna Grammar School, said it was thrilling to win after 10 hours of hard work developing the idea and writing the business plan, before delivering a tense five-minute pitch.

"I was really nervous to pitch, so to win the challenge because of the strength of our pitch, was a very rewarding and exciting feeling."

Ashleigh Bridle, from Hauraki Plains College, said she learnt an incredible amount from the exercise and felt overwhelmed by the win.

"A key thing that I learnt, for me personally, was that it’s very important that every single member if the team is on the same page to ensure that everything goes smoothly."

Dr Stangl said it is amazing to see how students develop their creative thinking and business acumen over the course of the Entrepreneurs in Action weekend.

"Massey University has been a sponsor of the event for ten years because we feel it’s really important to support the innovation ecosystem in New Zealand, and these students are our next generation of entrepreneurs," he says.

All participants in Entrepreneurs in Action 2017 received a $1000 scholarship from the Massey Business School and all challenge winners received an additional $2000. In total, across both the Auckland and Wellington weekends, the Massey Business School offered a total of $192,000 in scholarships.

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