”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.
We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.
Livin Farms AgriFood – Mealworm sandwich anyone?
Insects could, in theory, be an excellent substitute for meat. They are packed with essential nutrients, are much more environmentally friendly than a cow in a barn and are even part of the local cuisine in many Asian countries. However, we in the western world are not fond of them at all. The idea of insects on our plates tends to fill us mostly with revulsion.
Is that a problem? Well, it is actually. Worldwide, one third of all arable land is used for the production of beef. Not only the cows themselves, but their feed also has to be produced somewhere. And this takes up a lot of space. Mealworms are a lot more sustainable in this respect and can be processed into essential proteins for meat substitutes.
Over the next few years, the German start-up Living Farms AgriFood wants to introduce the mealworm to Europe. And no, they aren’t supposed to end up on your plate looking like worms. They are processed into tiny pieces so you won’t notice them.
Evegreen – Home accessories made of bioplastic
Slovenia; I don’t think that country has ever been mentioned in this section before. Nevertheless, sustainable innovation is also happening there via Evegreen. This start-up brought a line of flower pots and candlesticks onto the market that are made from biodegradable plastic. This means that your houseplant is kept in a pot that is also made of plant-based materials.
The latest product is a biodegradable candlestick designed for graves in cemeteries. This means that the person who maintains the grave no longer has to worry about it because the candlestick will eventually dissolve in rainwater and then be used as compost. And so it becomes – just like your departed loved one – a welcome meal for earthworms, which means the circle of life completes itself once more.
Helpr – the tireless robot teacher
Chatbots have not always had a very good image, yet they are getting better and smarter. For example, some are used on social media to deceive people, but others have more noble intentions. An example of this is Helpr – an educational chatbot that pupils and students are always allowed to bother.
The makers of this bot used to have a homework centre. They noticed that students very often raised the same questions about their assignments again and again. ‘How does gravity work?’- Those kinds of things. There was a certain measure of predictability … so that could be automated perfectly with a piece of software. They had to develop this themselves because the existing bot software was mainly aimed at customer service usages. A teacher is really something quite different.
The result is impressive. Helpr knows the answer to tens of thousands of questions and can be consulted with one tap of a key. Raising your hand is no longer necessary. In the end the bot should become a fully-fledged assistant teacher so that the actual teacher – who is usually rather busy – is spared.
Prolira – Scan a delirium within a minute and a half
A brain examination for a delirium is still quite a costly matter. Twenty electrodes have to be placed on the head and the procedure usually takes one to two hours. ‘This could be done faster,’ is what they thought at the start-up Prolira in Utrecht. They came up with the DeltaScan which can do this in just a minute and a half. And the advantages are not limited to the actual examination, but definitely cover the intake process as well.
At the moment, in order to test someone with a brain scan, an analogue questionnaire is filled in by a nurse. The problem with this method is that it is inaccurate and time-consuming. Half to three quarters of all deliriums in patients are detected too late. And with this condition, it’s vital that you get to them on time. The DeltaScan has an accuracy of 90 % and scans can be carried out anywhere because of its compact size.
Monobase – floating wind turbines
Building a wind farm at sea is quite a laborious job. It involves using special crane vessels to install entire foundations on the seabed where turbines are mounted. Apart from the fact that marine life isn’t exactly happy about this, it also costs a considerable amount of money. Is that foundation really necessary when you could also let the windmill float like a boat?
Monobase came up with a floating version that needs much less construction work and produces the same energy output as a regular windmill. Just three simple tugboats can put it in position so that it can generate its own sustainable energy. Moreover, assembling the parts of this turbine doesn’t have to be done at sea, but can be easily done on shore. This saves plenty of costs as well.
The wind turbine actually floats on what’s a bit like a gigantic hollow parasol stand. If you fill it up with water, it sinks to the bottom and is firmly anchored. This clever and uncomplicated method means that piles no longer need to be driven into the sea. This also keeps damage to the seabed down to a bare minimum. In fact, the foundation forms an artificial reef where the underwater inhabitants can reside. Green energy is fantastic, of course, but it’s a bit of a shame if it’s at the expense of biodiversity. Monobase is a splendid example of how you can still realize enormous innovations with a very simple plan. That’s why they deserve our wonderful trophy of the week.