Conservation X Labs Hosts Make for the Planet Borneo in Malaysia

Make for the Planet Borneo. Kuching, Malaysia. June 24-29, 2018.

Conservation X Labs, a Washington DC-based social enterprise, gathered 54 innovators in 15 teams from 9 countries in Kuching, Malaysia at the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) for Make for the Planet Borneo. Teams competed for over $10,000 in prizes and the opportunity to test and pitch new ideas in front of thought leaders and IMCC5 delegates.

 One winning solution, a coral reef monitoring ROV, tested in the hotel pool in Kuching, Malaysia. 2018

One winning solution, a coral reef monitoring ROV, tested in the hotel pool in Kuching, Malaysia. 2018

Make for the Planet Borneo was made possible with the support of 11 partner organizations, including local and regional companies Proteus 3D Printing (Kuching, Malaysia), Mr. D.I.Y. (Malaysian supply company), Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab (SZOIL), WWF-Malaysia, SEEED Designs, as well as the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5), Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, and MakerBay.

Conservation X Labs brought a team of world class engineers, designers, and conservationists as mentors to help the teams with their solutions and created a pop-up makerspace on site. By the end of the intensive rapid prototyping competition supported by 9 international partners and sponsors., 8 teams created working prototypes and 4 of the 15 solutions were selected to receive prizes.

 The pop-up makerspace at Make for the Planet Borneo. 2018

The pop-up makerspace at Make for the Planet Borneo. 2018

“We were deeply inspired by the incredible work of the Make for the Planet Borneo teams to create novel solutions to some of the world’s most complex oceans conservation challenges,” said Dr. Alex Dehgan, CEO of Conservation X Labs. “These kinds of creative, technology-powered solutions are exactly what the field of conservation needs to meet the pressing problems that it faces. From reimagining marine protected areas to combatting plastic pollution and enhancing coral restoration, these solutions have the potential to transform marine conservation efforts.”

Five accomplished Conservation Experts pitched marine conservation problems to the teams.

 The Make for the Planet Borneo participants celebrate a successful competition. 2018

The Make for the Planet Borneo participants celebrate a successful competition. 2018

  • The Honorable Dr. Jane Lubchenco, former NOAA Director, inspired six teams to create solutions re-imagine marine protected areas.

  • Marc-Olivier Roux of the USAID Oceans Fisheries Partnership convinced three teams to model solutions that incentivize traceability in fishing supply chains.

  • Dr. Muhammad Hafiz bin Wan Rosli, with input from Professor Dato’ Dr. Aileen Tan Shau Hwai of the University of Sains Malaysia, encouraged four teams to #BeatPlasticPollution.

  • Dr. Andrew Thaler of Blackbeard Biologic, with input from Dr. Jake Levenson and Dr. Jamison Smith, enticed one team to eliminate ghost traps from our oceans.

  • Tom Moore of NOAA supported one team as they created a solution to speed up current diver-assisted coral reef restoration methods.

Teams worked on-site at the IMCC5 meeting to create models and working prototypes of their solutions. The event was fully integrated into the meeting of 700 marine conservationists, with early prototypes displayed during the poster session to allow marine scientists and conservationists to interact with engineering and design teams and provide feed. Approximately half the teams were professionals in engineering, computer/data science, or entrepreneurs.

 Judges participate in the final pitch session. 2018

Judges participate in the final pitch session. 2018

The top solutions included a lineless lobster trap system (the team has already filed a provisional patent and created an LLC) in response to the ghost traps challenge; a system to speed up the diver-assisted out-planting of corals (NOAA will support this team to attend a coral reef restoration meeting in December, 2018); an inexpensive autonomous drone- boat capable of mapping shallow marine regions in response to the MPA challenge; and a series of Internet of Things-enabled buoys to detect and deter illegal activity near MPAs. See short descriptions of all of the solutions, teams, reviewers, judges, and partners on the Make for the Planet website.

“Conservation X Labs is excited to support the Make for the Planet Borneo teams as they begin to translate their successful ideas into impactful solutions,” said Open Innovation Director Dr. Barbara Martinez. “The partnerships and connections between IMCC5’s leading marine scientists and our innovators has the potential to tackle some of the ocean’s greatest challenges.”

 The LobsterLift team accepts the grand prize award at Make for the Planet Borneo. 2018

The LobsterLift team accepts the grand prize award at Make for the Planet Borneo. 2018

The event concluded with all fifteen teams pitching their ideas in two judging sessions. First, all of the teams pitched their ideas to a panel of impressive reviewers. The team with the highest score in the “scalability” category received the 6-month “hotbench” prize from MakerBay, a Hong Kong-based makerspace. Reviewers also had the difficult task of scoring the projects to determine the top 7 finalists eligible for cash prizes. A panel of five judges ranked the seven finalists in a second round of pitches where teams had more time for Q&A.
 The five judges are listed below.

  • Professor Dato’ Dr. Aileen Tan Shau Hwai, Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the Universiti Sains Malaysia

  • Dr. Alex Dehgan, CEO and Co-founder, Conservation X Labs

  • Dr. Line Bay, Senior Research Scientist and Team Leader for Reef futures: Adaptation and Resilience of Coral Reefs at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, AIMS

  • Dr. Edward Hind-Ozan, President Elect of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology, as well as the Chair of the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress in 2018

  • Jennifer Koss, Deputy Director, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

Conservation X Labs congratulates all the teams that participated in this exciting Make for the Planet competition in Borneo and is grateful to its partners for making it possible!

All inquiries can be directed to info@conservationxlabs.org. For more information on Make for the Planet and to find out when the next competition is scheduled, check out the Make for the Planet page on the Conservation X Labs website.