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Georgia firm misses top award, but reaches big sustainability audience at Ocean Exchange

Indoor gardening A company in Athens reached the Top 10 of an international competition held in Savannah for its efforts to reduce the energy consumption of lights to grow plants indoors. Credit: extremetech.com

By David Pendered

In the end, an Athens-based company didn’t win a big award for its intelligent lighting system to grow plants indoors. But the company did make it to the Top 10, which introduced it to thought leaders from around the world who gathered in Savannah for the international Ocean Exchange competition.

Indoor gardening

A company in Athens reached the Top 10 of an international competition held in Savannah for its efforts to reduce the energy consumption of lights used to grow plants indoors. Credit: extremetech.com

One way to think of Ocean Exchange is as a big TED Talk. Followers are well aware of the fifth annual event, but the general public may have little knowledge of the forum where scientists show off their innovations. The three-day event concluded Tuesday.

Two award winners won a prize of $100,00 each, to continue their work. A board of governors selected the winners.

This competition is heady stuff in the world of sustainability, and it has its own language. Here’s how a synopsis of the event described its purpose:

  • “Ocean Exchange seeks innovative, proactive and globally scalable Solutions with working prototypes that can leap across industries, economies and cultures. The 2015 contest focuses on Energy, Ocean/Land/Air Resources, Supply Chain, and Science/Technology that Supports Sustainability and can TRANSLATE SUSTAINABILITY INTO VALUE. Prior themes have been ACCELERATE SUSTAINABILITY and LEAP TO ZERO+.”

The Athens-based company that made it to the Top 10 is named PhytoSynthetix.

The language to describe PhytoSynthetix doesn’t get much easier than the description of Ocean Exchange. That’s true even though the description comes from a non-technical section of a document explaining why the company won a small business grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here’s the short version:

Erico Mattos

Erico Mattos

  • PhytoSynthetix and the University of Georgia are working collaboratively to develop a lighting system for indoor farms. The system is to use bio-feedback from plants to empower the plants to adjust the intensity of light. When plants have had enough light to meet their energy needs, their bio-feedback will turn down the light. And when they need light to produce energy, their bio-feedback will turn up the intensity of light.

The goal is to get a better handle on the energy required to grow plants indoors. It turns out that plants can shed 80 percent of the light energy they absorb. That represents tremendous waste. Growers could benefit from a way to reduce their energy bill, given that about 30 percent of the cost of growing produce relates to the lighting.

Four researchers who developed the concept won a patent in 2012, according to the LinkedIn page of Erico Mattos. Mattos is the project director for the USDA grant and is one of three PhDs who won the patent.

The fourth patent holder ended his formal education as a graduate assistant because, as his LinkedIn page indicates, he was involved in creating a total of five patent disclosures. Ryan Hunt now works in Mississippi, where he is working with algae on an industrial scale with hopes to devise uses for algae that include, “sustainable solutions for plastic applications using hybrid or compostable bio-resins.”

All this advancement is from a company that did not win a top award.

The winners were Saphon Energy, a company from Tunisia, and Transient Plasma Systems, of California.

Bladeless turbine

This bladeless turbine, by Saphon Energy, of Tunisia, could revolutionize the wind turbine industry. Credit: trendhunter.com

Saphon won an award from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a division of General Dynamics that focuses on business-jet aircraft. Since 1958, Gulfstream has produced more than 2,400 aircraft for global consumers, according to the statement.

According to the statement:

  • “Saphon Energy has developed breakthrough innovation in wind energy named ‘The Saphonian’, the zero-blade wind energy converter. The Saphonian is a radical new way to generate efficient, cost-effective and sustainable green energy.  It is radically different from conventional bladed turbines as it is bladeless and does not rotate.
  • “’It is fitting that the winner of the Gulfstream Navigator Award is inspired by sailing, which connected the world early on with the help of innovations in navigation,’ said Ira Berman, senior vice president, Administration, and general counsel, Gulfstream. ‘The Saphonian’s ability to capture wind energy in such an efficient way presents another unique opportunity to produce green energy and conserve resources for future generations. We congratulate Saphon Energy on this accomplishment.’”
Plasma fired

Transient Plasma Systems is devising a method to improve fuel efficiency in vehicles. Credit: tpsignition.com

Transient Plasma Systems won an award from Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. WWL specializes in supply chain management services ensure an efficient integration of ocean transportation, inland distribution, terminal handling and a comprehensive range of specialized technical services, according to the statement.

Transient Plasma Systems has developed an energy efficient, low emission ignition solution for automotive and truck manufacturers and engine producers, according to the statement:

  • “Transient Plasma Systems has developed an energy efficient, low emission plasma ignition technology that can help shipping reduce NOX emissions as well as improve fuel efficiency in any combustion engine,” Ray Fitzgeral, WWL’s president for Atlantic, said in a statement. “It’s a technology that can have major impact on human health and the environment; a very fitting winner of the Orcelle Award.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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