31. August 2016

Business Spotlight: Good Ideas

Full marks to…

the municipality of Amsterdam, for inviting start-ups to find solutions to social problems. In May 2015, Amsterdam launched its “Startup in Residence” programme as part of its “StartupAmsterdam” initiative.

Seven start-ups will be given offices within the municipality and will receive all the support they need, including mentoring by firms such as Deloitte, Microsoft and Google. They will learn about procurement procedures within Dutch local government and, should they be successful, they are guaranteed their first customer — the City of Amsterdam. The city will also provide a “demo day”, when the firms can present their ideas to other national and international municipalities.

The start-ups include &Thijs, which puts people in need of healthcare in touch with providers, RecyQ, which works on circular waste management and CrowdEffect which puts entrepreneurs in touch with city residents to help them to improve corporate social responsibility.

The Startup in Residence programme was modelled on the Entrepreneurship in Residence initiative in San Francisco. Amsterdam was the first European city to adopt the idea, and it was launched in The Hague in May 2016. In the same month, Amsterdam won the European Capital of Innovation Award. The city’s aim is not only to become a centre of innovation, but also to be a good place to live. As the official website, IAmsterdam.com, puts it: “We work to innovate, we innovate to live and we live to enjoy.”

Full marks to…

…Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies (Roots SAT) in Israel for its contribution to the worldwide problem of feeding seven billion people without destroying the environment.

The company, one of a number of start-ups working in this area, has developed an energy-efficient technique to heat or cool soil around plant roots. This is important, says co-founder Sharon Devir, an agricultural engineer. “If the temperature difference above and below the surface is too big, plants are unable to efficiently transport nutrients from their roots to the canopy,” Devir told The Guardian.

Roots SAT’s system uses coils of water-filled pipes, which are installed up to seven metres underground. The pipes can also release water, fertilizer and pesticides into the area around the roots.

The Guardian reports that the technology is unique in that it can both heat and cool roots, using pipes that are alternately insulated and uninsulated. It also uses a ground-source heat exchange. Conventional greenhouses heat the air rather than the soil and use boilers to heat water in pipes.

Roots SAT says increased crop yields of 10 to 30 per cent have been reached for vegetables and herbs. The company is currently testing its system at two farms in Spain and hopes to raise $4 million (about €3.6 million) to fund expansion.