With over 100 teams from more than 50 countries and some 600 attendees in 2019, ClimateLaunchpad was packed with what has been described as “the global crème de la crème of green start-ups pitching, provocative keynotes and interactive master classes.”[i]
Team Red Diamond Compost and Team Modern Terra, the teams that placed first and second, respectively, at the ClimateLauchpad Barbados National Final, joined a Caribbean contingent of teams from Jamaica and Suriname to compete to become the most promising and viable Green Business Idea of 2019 and gain acceptance into the European Union’s Climate KIC Accelerator programme.
Red Diamond Compost, represented by Joshua Forte and Verrol-Ann Scott, pitched their biotech business, which focuses on research, development and the commercialization of organic biologic soil treatment and crop protection solutions. Positioned for commercial use by farmers and turf managers, their product uses sargassum and fish waste to make an organic, biologic soil treatment and fertilizer. In experiments run with the University of the West Indies, use of their product resulted in a 40% yield increase compared with other synthetic fertilizers.
Modern Terra, represented by Kerri-Ann Bovell and Andwele Waldrond pitched a controlled environment farming solution. Utilizing the island’s plentiful sunlight and wind resources, Modern Terra’s solution could allow them to grow temperate crops locally. Their efforts are devised to help offset Barbados’ high food import bill and reduce CO2 emissions from shipping by making farming more efficient.
More than a competition, ClimateLaunchpad provided the Barbadian teams with training, coaching, knowledge and tools to help them grow into successful, scalable businesses that address climate change. The teams were also able to gain new contacts and network with experts and entrepreneurs from across the globe.
Of the experience, Kerry-Ann Bovell of Modern Terra noted that “… the information sessions were great. We learned about the different avenues to obtain investments such as venture, philanthropic and debt capital as well as knowing which investment types are suitable for the various phases that start-ups go through. They also taught us about what makes a successful start-up - team building and choosing great investors.”
Joshua Forte of Red Diamond Compost shared his gratitude for the programme and experience: "Thanks to ClimateLaunchpad I've gained many tools, principals and strategies necessary to build a strong clean tech business, along with the relevant knowledge to chart a path for scaling Red Diamond Composts' operations, profits and most of all, our impact."
ClimateLaunchpad Barbados Country Lead, Debbie Estwick from the BIDC, summarized her experience as “Extremely valuable,” adding that “The sargassum, food insecurity, water scarcity and other problems that affect us can be our catalysts for innovation. Our Caribbean islands are battling with similar issues. It was encouraging to see our Caribbean teams help each other succeed. They quickly realized that our competition was not with Jamaica or Suriname. Rather, we could help ourselves by helping each other and all make a greater impact through collaboration.”
Carlinton Burrell, CEO of the CCIC was encouraged by the interest and support of the competition, noting that, “Entrepreneurs in the Caribbean have been reinvigorated by the ClimateLaunchpad competition. Through this competition, we are seeing the mobilization of the entrepreneurial ecosystem from almost every sector in all three participating countries.” Burrell added, regarding future plans, “It’s a great programme with immense potential that every single country in the Caribbean should be participating in, which is our ultimate goal. Next year we are looking to expand the programme in at least 3 more countries to move the total to 6 Caribbean participating countries.”
Recognizing the profound impact that climate change can have on the Barbadian economy and the livelihood of Barbadians, the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation is working to support sustainable business innovation. CEO of the Corporation, Mrs. Sonja Trotman, noted the BIDC’s efforts to foster innovation through collaboration. Citing the collaboration with the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre that brought ClimateLaunchpad to Barbados, CEO Troman noted that “Participating in ClimateLaunchpad presented an opportunity to expose Barbadian start-ups to the systems, networks, strategies and investor circles that could help them develop scalable, innovative businesses that can help us mitigate the effects of climate change.”
The journey does not end at ClimateLaunchpad. The BIDC is gearing up for a year-long innovation focused campaign in 2020 - Innovate Barbados: Blue Green Caribbean. By leveraging the Region’s abundant natural resources, human creativity, intelligence and collective power, Innovate Barbados is working to build an ecosystem that can help entrepreneurs succeed. Support for the teams and other Barbadian entrepreneurs and businesses within the green technology space can also be gained through a UNIDO-funded Barbados Green Technology Cluster project, headed by locally based Manager for the Cluster, Jari Aaltonen. The Barbados Green Technology Cluster project aims to develop a cluster community to help green enterprises thrive and to offer a business incubator to support qualifying start-ups.
Additional sponsorship support to attend the Global Grand Final was provided by the Barbados Green Technology Cluster and local private company Williams Solar: a subsidiary of Williams Industries.
The ClimateLaunchpad Barbados competition was executed by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) in partnership with the Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC). CCIC is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The ClimateLaunchpad programme is part of the entrepreneurship offerings by EIT Climate-KIC, the European Union’s innovation program for climate change.