Three University of North Carolina Chapel Hill students are cultivating seaweed at a farm in Sea Level to be used as a sustainable alternative to plastic, with the hope to address the increasing effects of climate change.
The team, Eliza Harrison, Lucy Best and Emily Kian, wants to use seaweed as a pollution-reducing resource and as alternatives for plastics and animal feedstock.
The students launched in 2016 the startup called Phyta under the guidance and mentorship of UNC-Chapel Hill and is preparing for their first harvest in the spring, with plans to launch into the next phase of Phyta’s mission.
“Our team gauges seaweed as one of the most abundant and underutilized resources in the world,” Harrison, a senior environmental health sciences major, said in a statement. “We’re growing seaweed and harnessing its social, environmental and nutritional potential.”
To get their business off the ground, the students relied on various campus resources, including CUBE, a service for student and faculty entrepreneurs focused on social change, faculty from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Since its launch in 2016, Phyta has won Carolina’s Hult Prize competition and a regional final in Melbourne, Australia. The team then spent six weeks this summer with 41 other teams from around the world in the Hult Prize’s accelerator program, hosted in a castle outside of London. When the program ended in August, Phyta was selected as a global finalist to compete at the United Nations Headquarters in September.
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