Students’ SISCA success opens doors for startup

24 Oct 2018

A team of University of Queensland students is a step closer to startup success with a unique composting system that can turn 100 kilograms of organic waste into 10 kilograms of fertiliser a day.

Business and IT student Ashley Baxter and chemical engineering student Ashley Chiam pitched their business idea at the 2018 Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) finals, and won the $25,000 first prize.

Ms Baxter said they wanted to develop a product to help combat an approaching fertiliser shortage, which could affect the food supply for half of the world’s population.

“We pitched a decentralised waste management network for organic waste that uses a unique composting system, able to generate commercial-grade organic fertiliser as a by-product,” Ms Baxter said.

“This can be used as a substitute for rapidly depleting artificial fertiliser alternatives which have significant environmental impacts.”

“Organic waste causes massive environmental and health problems, severely affecting developing countries.”

The team plans to begin work on their product immediately after semester two, using half the funds on product development and the other half on research.

Their pitch was one of nine presented to a panel of expert judges at last week’s SISCA finals.

Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation Centre Manager Briony Beaumont said the competition helped students to secure the finances needed to turn big ideas into an economically-sustainable business, and make a positive impact on sustainability.

“The judging panel was very impressed by this year’s pitches, which included an advanced greywater treatment system and a wind turbine capable of capturing wind from all directions,” Ms Beaumont said.

“Through UQ’s Ideahub, Startup Academy and iLab, students have access to a wide range of resources and programs to develop their ideas.

“We hope to see everyone who applied this year continue to develop their ideas and take part in SISCA again in 2019.”

To view a full list of the finalists, visit the Centre’s website.

Image: Professor Chris Greig with Ashley Baxter, Ashley Chiam and Theresa Qin.

Media: EAIT Communications, Paige Ashby,, 0430 511 615