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Price for multilayer cultivation in a pie display case

On Wednesday, May 22, three young entrepreneurs secured awards at the finale of the Wageningen Entrepreneurship Grant. This award, presented annually by the University Fund Wageningen in collaboration with StartHub, aims to support young innovative entrepreneurs in taking their venture's initial steps.

Bart van Gorcum of, who is pioneering an AI tool to efficiently sort second-hand clothing by value, was honored with the Future Resources Award, which carries a prize of 25,000 euros. The Future Planet Award, also worth 25,000 euros, was bestowed upon Nikolaos Alfieris of FarmVent, a company specializing in modular vertical farms producing fresh vegetables for chefs. Tom Kloosterman clinched the audience's vote and won the Get Unstuck Award, valued at 7,500 euros, for his initiative, Blauwe Bagger.

Rescuing Second-hand Clothing
"In the contest for the Future Resources Award," pitches Bart van Gorcum, "it takes an employee an average of six months of training to effectively sort second-hand clothing." He competed against finalists Matthew Halley of Soualigas, which converts waste in Sint Maarten into valuable resources, and Tom Kloosterman of Blauwe Bagger, which separates dredge into valuable resources. Van Gorcum of won over the jury with his AI tool, which analyzes clothing using a camera and robotics system to determine brand, size, and quality, thereby estimating the real market value of a garment. This enables second-hand clothing sorting companies to operate more efficiently and resell valuable clothing at better market prices. This is crucial, as approximately 7.5 billion kilograms of second-hand clothing are collected annually in Europe. The prize was warmly welcomed by the entrepreneur: "Our current prototype is made from materials from Gamma. With this prize money, we can significantly improve our next prototype."

Growing Vegetables On-Site
"Impressively small, impossibly large," is the slogan of FarmVent, the initiative by Nikolaos Alfieris. His modular vertical farms resemble a pie display next to the cashier but promise, instead of sweets, the freshest vegetables and herbs prepared directly by the chef for you. The chef decides which and how many microgreens he wants to grow. An important by-product is that it barely impacts the environment.

The vegetables are grown using aeroponics, without pesticides, and directly on-site. This reduces food miles driven, aligns with local demand to reduce vegetable waste, and is more cost-effective for the user. Alfieris competed against Emiel Smits of Aeroponics Outdoors, who creates a tubing system to grow potatoes up to 5 times faster, and Evelien Bos, who offers pet food testing to producers with her initiative PetPanel, where pet owners test with their pets at home.

Alfieris impressed the jury in various areas. The chair of the jury and co-founder of the award, Heleen van Poecke, praised Alfieris for the story surrounding the business model, the partnerships forged, and his team. The fact that Alfieris participated for the second time impressed the jury. Van Poecke said: "The jury admires perseverance. That is the most important trait of an entrepreneur because progress is not linear."

Dredge is Not Waste
During the intermissions, finalists had the opportunity to seek assistance from the audience to address gaps in knowledge, expertise, or contacts. They requested experts in thermodynamics, quantifying biodiversity, voluntary carbon credits, and robotics. Additionally, finalists could outline a challenge for which they could utilize the funds from the Get Unstuck Award, amounting to 7,500 euros. The audience then voted for the candidate they deemed most deserving of the award, with the majority of votes going to Tom Kloosterman. With the funds, he and his team from Blauwe Bagger will construct an oven to bake PFAS-contaminated clay at a temperature at which the PFAS disintegrates.

Source: WUR

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