Social entrepreneurs polishing off another eventful year

Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Students and faculty advisers surround their award with pleased facial expressions.

The Enactus uOttawa team poses with its award from the 2018 Enactus Canada National Exposition. Photo credit : Courtesy of Enactus Canada

By Robert Greeley

The 2018 Enactus Canada National Exposition represented a year of hard work with impact by the social entrepreneurship group, showing the power of students. The University of Ottawa’s Enactus team presented what it worked on this past year. Evaluated by a group of distinguished Canadian business leaders, the group of 95 students from different facilities stood tall. Enactus uOttawa placed second overall in the competition among schools from across the country.

Presenting The Growcer, a hydroponic system that grows fresh produce in temperatures as cold as -52 C, the team’s efforts grew in two successful  final round challenges. Alida Burke was awarded Project Leader of the Year honours for her outstanding work ethic, and Enactus uOttawa president Holly Todd was a finalist for the HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow award.

Over the past year, the group of determined students ran six projects that aimed to create a better world for us all.

The Growcer: An instant answer to food security challenges

The Growcer is a shipping container converted into a place to grow fresh produce. Each system diverts six tonnes of CO2 annually, saves 658,000 litres of water and uses 99.2% less land than traditional farming methods. In the past year, the team has installed two systems, grown 10,000 servings of vegetables, decreased the price of produce by 53% and created eight jobs. In the next year, it aims to install eight more systems, grow 120,000 pounds of produce, improve 16,000 lives and generate $2 million in revenue.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the Growcer team smiling around produce.

One of the University’s neighbours, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, even stopped by to check out a system here in Ottawa. Photo credit : Courtesy of Invest Ottawa

Poly: Tackling the plastic waste crisis

The team’s newest project, Poly, looks to tackle the plastic waste crisis.  It’s a small-scale recycling system that grinds up plastic, to be melted down into anything from flowerpots to furniture. The machine can divert 300,000 water bottles per year. The team is also looking into creating plastic frames for prescription eyeglasses, creating a more affordable eyewear option. Earlier in the year, Aviva recognized the project’s potential through a $150,000 award.

Sealed packages of Rustic Pasta and Fiesta Rice on a table next to samples.

Two meal kits prepared in a food sampling station at the University of Ottawa. Photo credit : Robert Greeley

Sprout: Giving individuals a fresh and affordable option

Sprout is a project providing fresh and affordable meal kits. It employs one person and has improved the lives of over 10,000 people. With locations throughout Ottawa, you can even find Sprout locations a short walk from campus.

Three projects aiming for better education

Enactus uOttawa has been creating not only social enterprises, but opportunities for our next generation of leaders to learn and grow through educational programs.

Project F.L.Y. offers workshops that teach youth about financial literacy. Every year it hosts a bilingual competition called Perfect Pitch, where participants develop their knowledge in entrepreneurship and present in front of a panel judges. This year, the team reached 500 youth.

A crowd of seated high school students listening to a speaker.

High school students listen to one of the influential speakers at this past years’ Perfect Pitch competition. Photo credit : Robert Greeley

Tower Gardens is a hydroponic garden system enhancing nutritional education. Set up in ten schools, it has been able to provide 5,000 meals.

The Legacy Conference has become the largest student-run entrepreneurship conference in Canada, with over 700 attendees from across the country from different faculties. Hosted each year in Ottawa, it has become a must attend for many students,  understandably so given headline speakers like David Segal, co-founder of Davids Tea, Cap Watkins, vice-president of design for BuzzFeed, and Omar Itani, agency manager at Google.

Omar Itani smiles while sitting on a couch with a microphone in his hand.

Omar Itani answering questions from students at this year’s Legacy Conference. Photo credit : Robert Greeley

The numbers tell the story

Overall, Enactus uOttawa is 95 students from different backgrounds who, in the past year, donated 33,000 volunteer hours, generated $1 million dollars in revenue, created nine jobs and had a direct impact on 1,200 individuals. For Drew Stirling, the organization’s vice president of external affairs, “Enactus has been an incredible platform to develop personally and professionally, meet other driven students and travel the world, all while learning to use business to change the world for the better.”

Find out how you can become involved with Enactus uOttawa.

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