Ngā Ara Whetū directors Saeid and Rod with prize winner (Middle).


Judges named a deep dive into the world of mussels the strongest for the Ngā Ara Whetū prize at the Velocity Ideas Challenge. The Flex Our Mussels, comprised of Andy Liu and Simran Nayak, took home $1000 for their winning idea looking into biogenic carbonate waste. Biogenic carbonate waste is generated by organisms like shellfish that use carbonates to build their shells or structures.


The competition invited participants to showcase their innovative ideas. Whether addressing a social issue, tackling an environmental problem, exploring a market opportunity, or leveraging university research, contestants had the chance to make their mark.


Flex Our Mussels focused on biogenic carbonate waste, especially those from our biodiversity-enhancing kai moana. The team said it needs to be recognised or counted at all stages of the value chain, from generation to collection, to potential use in construction material with low embodied energy and CO2.


The competition held each year by Velocity, the entrepreneurship development programme administered through the Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), required participants to submit a written entry of up to 1,000 words outlining their idea.

The best entries, as determined by a panel of judges, would receive an award of $1,000, with no strings attached. Twenty winners were announced, each taking home a slice of $20,000.

The Ngā Ara Whetū prize had to address an environmental problem around the climate, biodiversity or community. It also should support the vision of mātauranga Māori, which is to unlock the innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources, and people.


Regardless of whether participants won a prize, they could attend a feedback session with the judges. These sessions provided valuable insights and guidance to help participants develop their innovative ideas further.

Rod McNaughton, a director of both Ngā Ara Whetū and CIE, said entrepreneurial change-makers will be vital to combating climate change and reversing the decline in biodiversity.

“Nga Ara Whetū’s ‘Innovate’ workstream helps students and researchers identify opportunities and use their expertise to help solve the environmental and social challenges the world faces,” said McNaughton.

“We hoped the prize would encourage more students and staff to collaborate and focus their talents on climate change and biodiversity problems, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. We received over thirty creative submissions, many of which made the judges say, ‘Wow, I’d never thought of that!’ But being novel and innovative isn’t enough. The best submissions were also well thought through regarding how they could be implemented and the resources and skills required.”



“The winner, Flex Our Mussels, addresses an opportunity few people would consider. Muscle shells are a natural carbon sink, and NZ’s growing aquaculture industry annually produces over 55,000 tonnes of them for disposal. Flex Our Mussels proposes to divert shells from the landfill, use them in construction to replace non-renewable materials, track the diverted waste stream and monetise the carbon savings. Talk about a win, win, win solution!”



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