Project turning home waste into organic fertilizer wins Initiate Week

Inaugural programme initiated by lecturer focuses on social enterprise amongst the young local communtiy

InTurn, a team of four local graduates, are looking to convert and market household food waste into organic plant fertilizer online after being awarded first place at the Initiate Week: Rising of Social Entrepreneurs yesterday.

Initiate Week, a four-day workshop to birth commercial ideas that improve the community and environment, saw Major Tom – an eco-fashion brand using sustainable materials – come in second while third place went to Fresh Bowl for their idea of delivering healthy balanced meals.

About 25 participants joined the four-day programme, which started last Monday and ended this afternoon with an awards ceremony where the two winning teams were presented with reward of $650 each as an initiative to develop their business ideas even further.

InTurn – who comprise of graduates from Bruneian, US, UK and Australian universities – are now planning and designing the prototype for their Automated Earth Machine (AEM) – an everyday household machine that would allow users to turn their food waste into fertilizers or compost that could be used in farming.

“We identified the main problem in waste management in Brunei. We generate 1.4kg of waste each day and 36% of this waste is of food,” said InTurn team leader, Azizan Abdul Razak (pictured main R), citing recent statistics from a local agency.

The team is looking to set up a website, called Earth Bank, where compost makers can sell fertilizers and to interested buyers, including farmers.

“Once it (the website) reaches a certain threshold, we will look into building apps to connect our users better,” said Azizan. He hoped that EarthBank would be able to bring Brunei a step closer to securing food security and also enrich the agricultural sector.

Initiate Week was organized by a lecturer from Politeknik Brunei’s School of Business, Goh Chai Li (pictured main L), who participated in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiatives (YSEALI) programme – funded by U.S. Department of State – that took place last May.

Goh spent a month at University of California San Diego (UCSD) to learn about the startup ecosystem within the university, and as a requirement of all YSEALI alumni – was required to make an outbound project proposal of how they would bring back what they have learned in the US to their home country.

Initiate Week was one of the six ASEAN projects out of 27 chosen by the American Councils for International Education to be funded and carried out.

“The local contacts I made through the YSEALI network has tremendously helped me organize this programme,” said Chai Li. With the help of Briana Welsinger, UCSD Startup Advocate, Chai Li organized the workshop in less than two months.

The programme was in collaboration with Politeknik Brunei, Darussalam Enterprise, Department of Parks, Environments and Recreation, Health Promotion Centre, Entrepreneurship Village, UCSD, Daikyo Environment Recycling Sdn Bhd, Green Brunei and Helmi Abdullah Fitness.

Member of the Legislative Council and YSEALI alumnus Yang Berhormat Awang Iswandy Ahmad with the Director of Politeknik Denis Ho Mun Tai (3rd R) with participants of Initiate Week (standing).