Last week, a team of students from different Lithuanian universities participated in European final of bio-based business competition. Competition is called BISC-E, where student teams are tasked with designing a new biobased product or process that contributes to reducing the use of fossil raw materials.
Lithuanian team chose to name their company ReTerra with a mission to make using green-practices in farmland more profitable. They presented a social business concept where using biomass of perennial grass Miscanthus giganteus (also known as silvergrass or elephant grass) can be used to extract high value compounds making soil regeneration profitable. Silvergrass has been shown to have suitable growing conditions in Lithuania and it provides large amount of biomass however currently it is only used for energy production and is not profitable for the farmers to cultivate. Extracted high value compounds can then be sold for cosmetics, pharmaceutical or agriculture industries. Team ReTerra anticipates that with the Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategies, the need of using soil regenerating practices will increase in the future and wants these years of soil regeneration to be profitable for the farmers. Selling these high value compounds that have been extracted in ReTerra’s biorefinery would allow to buy silvergrass biomass from farmers for a competitive price making soil regeneration profitable.
In European finals, 12 teams who have won their national finals are entered, however, this year LBTA had exclusive rights to form a team to enter the competition. Open call for participation was launched in May. After the motivational interviews the team of six students was formed. Team members Ieva Ožiūnaitė, Emilija Radlinskaitė and Barbora Popova are from Vilnius University studying life science disciplines, Aida Bradauskaite from Klaipeda University studies marine biotechnology, Vainius Gaigilas entering the team was a bioengineer studying at VilniusTech and Tadas Pikciunas is agricultural economist studying at Vytautas Magnus University. ReTerra team greatly enjoyed the experience of forming a team from different universities and disciplines and recommends trying to keep this tradition going as this competition requires different skill set and knowledge. As part of the business plan which required economist skills, teams also had to present technical aspects of the solution where you need background of life sciences and chemistry and also life cycle assessment that can be challenging if you have no sustainability expertise on the team. LBTA believes that this competition is great opportunity to foster entrepreneurship among young scientists and interdisciplinarity which is essential in today’s context of bio-based industries.
A vast inspiring business ideas were presented during the competition from all the countries. They ranged from making waste water treatments profitable to using waste streams for high added value product extractions and ranged from solutions for construction to pharmaceutical industries. Team ReTerra received positive feedback from the jury for trying to solve such a complex issue as green transformation in the food system but did not make it to the super finals this year. Teammates are pleased that they got invaluable feedback from the jury on their business idea and deeper knowledge about the competition that they eager to pass on to the following team. Team members wish that next year’s competition will get more attention in Lithuania from students from different disciplines and Lithuanian team can come back better and stronger.
LBTA is planning to continue to represent Lithuania is BISC-E in the future and organise a national competition the next year. So, watch out for the updates!
More about the competition: https://bisc-e.eu