The bright sparks behind the technology investor which owns southern NSW's Riverina Fresh dairy plant want to give away money for good ideas about water use and water problems.
The Israeli-backed Bridge Hub agricultural technology incubator is intent on finding practical solutions to water issues in regional Australia, and overseas.
It is starting its quest by inviting suggestions about problem hotspots where it could best focus its attention.
Bridge Hub's 2020 Water Challenge ambitiously aims to help drought-proof Australia, solving water usage issues by developing technology or systems which it can commercialise to do the job.
We want to identify the problems that, if solved, will have a measurable and positive impact on drought proofing Australia
But first it needs to identify problems which it will direct its research and technology attention to.
The agrifood tech innovation group, which has bases in Wagga Wagga, Sydney and Israel has invited ideas to be submitted to the 2020 Water Challenge by mid March.
"We want to identify the problems that, if solved, will have a measurable and positive impact on drought proofing the Australian and global agrisystem," said Bridge Hub co-chief executive officer, Craig Shapiro.
Four prizes of $1000 each will be awarded to those who submit thoughts about problems which would have the greatest impact on agriculture and its environment.
A further $150,000 is being promised to those with the best solutions selected for trials later on.
Mr Shapiro is also one of the founding partners behind the Blue River Group, which combined its Israeli investment and innovation connections with local technology skills, plus its enthusiasm for agricultural investment, to develop the Bridge Project, later launched as Bridge Hub.
Blue River made its first splash in southern NSW in 2016, buying the Riverina Fresh dairy processing business from Fonterra soon after the group had established as an "impact investment services" firm.
Impact investment involves raising funds from investors who want to see profitable projects delivering measurable social and community gains as well as shareholder dividends.
Blue River's former investment banker partners regard their enterprise as a "profit with purpose" business, leveraging its experienced investment team and partnerships to develop and commercialise "impactful ideas and innovations".
"As the drought continues, and following the devastation of the recent bushfires and floods, there is much discussion around water and how we make changes now that can ease the impact of future events," Mr Shapiro said.
At the recent evokeAG conference in Melbourne Bridge Hub asked delegates to submit answers to the question "what water problem would you like solved if you had access to the best scientist in the world?"
Ensuring we get different perspectives is critical to making sure we're solving the right problems and ensuring the projects will have real impact
The number and depth of responses was described as "amazing".
Everything from wasted evaporation and water runoff to the lack of wastewater re-use and pump energy costs filled the whiteboard.
"We're excited to see what other problems we can identify now we've broadened the call for problem submissions," Mr Shapiro said.
"Ensuring we get different perspectives is critical to making sure we're solving the right problems and ensuring the projects will have real impact where it's most needed."
As a commercialisation partner, Bridge Hub, intends to provide support through all stages of the commercial process as it already does for other Australian researchers and startups via its launch pad activities.
Partners and supporters
It boasts funding support and co-operation from Charles Sturt University, AgriFutures Australia, and international law and business services firms King and Wood Mallesons and KPMG, plus collaboration agreements with leading Australian, Israeli and global partners.
Bridge Hub's Israeli chief executive officer, Ethy Levy, is a former Israel Trade Commissioner to Australia.
Once the problem statements are decided, the Water Challenge will be officially launched in late March.
Researchers, start-ups and students will have the opportunity to submit their solutions, with cash prizes, investment and funding for trials of at least $150,000 to be awarded to the best applicants.
Mr Shapiro said plenty of people were living with water challenges every day.
"We know there are solutions out there," he said.
"We're excited to see what problems come up. Identifying the right problems to solve is just the start."
- To sharing a problem with Bridge Hub visit https://thebridgehub.co/problem.
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The story Got ideas about water problems needing fixing? Want to win $1000? first appeared on Farm Online.