AquaHacking Lake Winnipeg – Conservation challenge comes to Manitoba (The Selkirk Record)

By Carmen Joy King February 13, 2020

The Selkirk Record Thursday, February 13, 2020 – read it in the original version (PDF)

By Katelyn Boulanger

IISD has teamed up with AquaHacking to bring the Aquahacking Challenge, a challenge designed to have innovators compete to create a startup company which tackles issues facing lakes and rivers, to Manitoba.

“Aquahacking is a watershed competition that aims to solve water issues through innovation, set solutions, and entrepreneurship. So at the end of the competition, we want to launch startups able to turn their solutions into products that are able to be adapted to the market and are useful to different organizations and municipalities that have different water issues,” said Anne-Pascale Richardson, the program director of Aquahacking.

The name Aquahacking comes from wanting to hack water issues using different technologies and the first competition was launched in Gatineau, Que. five years ago. This is the first year that the competition has come to Manitoba and is being coordinated by the International Institute for Sustainable Development out of Winnipeg.

“[The International Institute for Sustainable Development] saw it in the media and thought that it was an interesting idea both in terms of creative solution but even more importantly bringing a new group of people that aren’t necessarily focused on water issues and lake issues together to try to think through some of the problems and so we thought, ‘Lake Winnipeg is a great lake as well. I wonder if we could do something surrounding Lake Winnipeg and try and collect a different group of voices in Manitoba and across the prairies for Lake Winnipeg,’” said Pauline Gerrard, deputy director, IISD-ELA and corporate secretary.

This year five challenges have been put forward that the people applying to be part of the competition will be asked to focus on. These challenges are: reducing microplastics both from urban sources and tracking what is being put into the lake, reducing drinking water challenges which encompasses communities with drinking water advisories but also includes managing small drinking water plants, fish health and understanding fish health using technology, cost effective technology so farmers can better manage their fields by targeting fertilizer and manage drainage better, and using financial technologies and environmental management so that individuals can invest in Lake Winnipeg but also really see where their investment is being used.

The competition is open to everybody thought they are targeting university students and young people so that solutions come from fresh eyes and voices looking at the problems that Lake Winnipeg faces.

“What happens is that you register online as an individual and there’s an online platform where you form together in teams and the most successful teams from the last fi ve years are multidisciplinary groups of people. So you might have a computer scientist, you may have a biologist, and a business student and together that group with different expertise will then try to identify the challenge that they want to work on and identify an idea and because they have different skillsets they will be able to succeed in developing the best idea possible,” said Gerrard.

“The aim of the competition is not only to develop a solution but to develop a start-up. Also, the solution has to be really adapted to the market or the reality so it’s not only an engineer or a programmer who can develop it on their own it’s a future start-up so we need multidisciplinary teams so that we can develop different perspectives and also when they are building their solutions they start to build their start-ups,” said Richardson.

So far in five years, 17 start-ups have come from the Aquahacking challenges and these start-ups are still in business today.

Richardson suggests that participants think outside the box for their solutions and encourages anyone from any discipline to enter as perspectives are needed from many fields in order for the best solutions to be found.

For more information about the Lake Winnipeg competition or to sign up visit aquahacking.com/en/2020- winnipeg/