Process to Improve Sustainability of Beef and Seafood Production Wins Sabin Prize

Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.

sabin prize 2018 Nicholaus Johnson, left, Alexia Akbay, and Gracie White
A student-led startup that is developing a saltwater aquaponic system that aims to drastically reduce the environmental impacts of both the seafood and beef industries last week received the 2018 Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize.

The venture, Concha Aquaponic Solutions, is creating a system that grows both Pacific white shrimp and a red macroalgae, two species that in their own ways might help achieve more sustainable food production.

The macroalgae, Asparagopsis taxiformis, has been shown to reduce methane emissions produced by the enteric fermentation in cattle by 99 percent, according to the founders. While the algae has not yet been sustainably grown and harvested, the Yale team has developed a system that includes it in a circulating aquaponic system in the form of marine seaweeds. Pacific white shrimp was chosen to complement the algae growing venture because of the species’ symbiotic relationship; the shrimp use the oxygen produced by the algae and the algae utilize the nitrates produced by the shrimp.

“This means that for the cost and time it takes to operate one system, our technology allows our customers to capitalize on the production of two extremely clean, high quality, and in-demand products,” according to the team.

Project members include Alexia Akbay, ’19 M.P.H.; Gracie White, a 2016 graduate of Yale College; and Nicholaus Johnson ’19 M.P.H.

In addition to a $25,000 cash prize, the business is automatically entered into the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking Summer Fellowship.

The Sabin Prize competition kicked off Startup Yale, a weeklong series of entrepreneurship pitch competitions and events that invited innovative ideas from across the Yale community. The prize is managed by the Yale Center for Business and the Environment (CBEY), which is based at F&ES and the Yale School of Management.

Four other contests included the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education and the Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation, both awarded by InnovateHealth Yale; the Miller Prize, sponsored by the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale; and the Rothberg Catalyzer Prize, which is given to the best student-led venture focused on developing hardware solutions to a medical challenge.
“The Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize continues to inspire the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs across campus,” said Stuart DeCew, executive director of CBEY. “On the 10-year anniversary of the Sabin Prize, we are thrilled to see Startup Yale celebrate a whole week of entrepreneurship and innovation, including four other prizes modeled after the Sabin Prize.”
“These prizes catalyze student innovation and impact, and over 10 years we’ve seen Sabin Prize winners go on to scale their companies, start new ones, and become intrapreneurs at companies like Vox, Forbes and Yale.”

One of this year’s Sabin Prize finalists was DroneFlow, a machine learning platform designed by two F&ES students that allows people to train their drones to locate what they’re searching for — such as pipeline leaks, crop diseases, evidence of poaching or forest fires. Team members include Andrew Wilcox ’18 M.F. and Andy Beck ’18 M.F./M.B.A. DroneFlow received a Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant in December.
Other finalists included Alectro LLC, which aims to help railways transition to renewable energy by designing and implementing large-scale solar projects, and Real Impact Tracker, which rates the social and environmental impact of investment funds so investors can use their financial stakes to support the issues they care about.