4-10 October marked the 2021 World Space Week, which recognises the impact and contributions of space science and technology in improving life on Earth. When we talk about space tech, we usually have an extra-terrestrial focus; Mars rover, moon landings and rockets, especially with the recent advent of ‘space tourism’. Yet there is so much more to space technology than this – satellite-enabled technologies like remote sensing, geolocation and increased connectivity already play a major role in life on Earth, and still have many more untapped applications to offer.
With this in mind, from 11-15 October the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology at The Australian National University, the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) and the Institute for Water Futures, in partnership with the ANU Institute for Space, CSIRO and Charles Sturt University, delivered the ‘H2O Hack: solving water challenges from space’ online hackathon to help get teams thinking about solutions to Australia’s water management challenges using space technologies. Fostering collaboration across disciplinary silos is at the heart of what CEAT does, and we are pleased to see this approach employed effectively to tackle such a major problem in Australia, as teams with diverse expertise applied their knowledge to this challenge.
Over the course of the week participants got the chance watch a number of presentations from experts in subjects ranging from satellite imaging, to water management, to plant biology and more. The speakers have generously allowed us to share their videos online for interested viewers. Eight teams participated in numerous workshops, mentor and collaboration sessions during the week, which culminated in a pitch session on Friday 15 October, followed by the judges’ deliberation and the announcements of the winners. Each team submitted a very high quality and innovative solution in their pitch. The team’s solutions are listed below:
Team Endeavour’s pitch focussed on making data for farmers easier to read. For farmers who can’t afford to buy expensive systems, Endeavour wanted to provide info on what is going to be the most cost effective and high earning crop based on satellite data.
The DroneX team proposed the Aquaview drone for wetland monitoring. The drone would provide high resolution imagery of wetlands.
After Realism proposed a program to monitor water volumes in damns and rivers to prevent water theft. Their intended market was state and federal governments.
Team AquaTarpas proposed a hydrobot which could inspect water pipelines from inside to collect data and prevent water loss.
Watson team was made up of geographical information systems and mechatronic experts who develop innovation systems to manage and analyse spatial data. They proposed using satellite data to identify waste and monitor crop health.
Team DigiAg proposed a real time soil moisture tracker using remote sensing to inform more proactive irrigation decisions and improve crop water productivity. They proposed an app delivering high resolution soil moisture data for improved decision making, leading to reduced crop losses and better water efficiency.
Team OzRiver are remote sensing scientists from ANU with a research background in water remote sensing. They have developed the product ‘3D Farm Water- online irrigation planning platform’.
Waterwise Team proposed an end-to-end water quality monitoring system specifically for use in mining areas. Their process included mass spec onsite readings, extracting data using satellites for best connectivity, and a deep-learning algorithm to interpret the data, detect anomalies and predict future issues.
It was a very close competition, and after the judges deliberated they announced the winners as:
First place $10,000: Waterwise
Second place $5000: OzRiver
Crowd’s Choice award $5000: AquaTarpas
Following the hackathon, the winning teams will have access an incubation program at CBRIN and opportunities to attend CEAT ANU-mediated workshops, enabling them to develop connections with researchers and industry. This will give them the opportunity to further develop their product pitches and concepts, as well as pursue investment to enable commercialisation of their proposals. CEAT works to foster an innovation ecosystem in the ACT and surrounding region, so the opportunity to run this event with CBRIN and the ANU as partners was a great opportunity to showcase what collaboration and innovative thinking can do to address complex problems.
The CEAT team would like to thank all the speakers, judges, mentors, sponsors and especially the participating teams for their involvement in the H2O Hack. We wish you all the best with your future entrepreneurial endeavours, and hope to see some of your pitches progress into business opportunities.