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18 October 2018

WorldSkills BeChangeMaker winner announced

A business initiative to empower rice farmers to fight climate change has won top prize at the final pitching competition of BeChangeMaker 2018, an initiative by WorldSkills and the HP Foundation.

Three students from Guatamala and Honduras won the competition with an innovative plan to recycle all the rice straw which is traditionally burned after a harvest into products like biofuels and pup for paper manufacture.

Rocio Leon Agular, Natalia Beneitez Meza, and Jose Mario Zalaya came up with the idea while traveling through Indonesia when they saw the black polluting smoke rising from the paddi fields. They discovered that some 160 million hectares of rice straw are burned after every harvest and they set about doing something about that. This phenomenon is seen in many countries where rice is the main staple.

Three of them are currently studying in Taipei, and this is where they have come up with the solution and they continue to speak with the local farmers and businesses for validation and improvement of their idea.

Their research turned into Uroboros. It brings together Jose’s bio-engineering skills, Natalia’s computer science and Rocio’s business administration skills to create a new enterprise to reduce CO2 emissions and fight climate change.

Uroborus’ business model is to engage with rice farmers, buying their straw and then selling it on to recycling companies or companies that can upcycle the rice straws and turn them into something useful such as bio gas. And they aim to have Uroborus launched in time for the rice harvest in April next year.

Runners up were Team Ripple from Bangalore in India who pitched the innovation of a device to recycle household waste water, while Christine Fayad from Syria came third with an electronic glove capable of translating sign language into text and audio words for deaf and mute people. 

Each of the three winning teams won a prize of EUR 1,000 from WorldSkills and the HP Foundation. They will also receive business and incubator support to further develop their innovations and bring them to market.