Deborah and George presenting their 'Government World future' at the first GrowPlenty workshop. - Photo: Venture Centre
Deborah and George presenting their 'Government World future' at the first GrowPlenty workshop.

Photo: Venture Centre

Do you imagine a future like in the Terminator or Hunger Games movies, where survival is based on outwitting your opponent, or one where people work together, using technology to live sustainably?

These are just two scenarios set out for participants of GrowPlenty - Puna Tōnuitanga - workshops at Techweek Tauranga. The event was created to help grow young entrepreneurs who’ll be willing to share their ideas with the world.

Peter Salmon from SO - Future Centred Design - told an audience of innovators, educators and students from schools including Katikati College, Aquinas College and Te Wharekura o Mauao, it’s hard to build a life plan when the world is changing. “One way to do that is design from the future backwards. The future isn’t linear. It’s whatever we want it to be.”

Entrepreneurs from the Bay of Plenty and from around the country told stories about how they tried to mould their own futures and help shape the wider community through innovation.

They said success starts with finding a solution to a problem, it doesn’t start with technology for tech’s sake.

Presenters included Robotics Plus co-founder Dr Alistair Scarfe, whose Te Puna-based company seeks to bridge a worldwide labour shortage in agriculture, and Greg Mirams of Techion, which works to solve parasite problems in animals and humans.

Andre Prassinos from BioBrew of Hamilton makes probiotics. Prassinos said entrepreneurship is simple, but not easy. “You don’t need a degree or millions of dollars. If you have something that could be a good business, this is probably the best place in the world to get going. New Zealand is amazing. There’s an abundance of technical support at all levels for people who are legitimately trying to build something in this country.”

Other presenters included Dr Tim Lowe from Zespri; Dugald Hamilton from Respond; Shane McConigly from Trustpower; Stacey Mareroa of Tūhono Whenua Horticulture; Alvero Jimenez of Sensum Technologies and Tim Uckun of the Centre for Space Science Technology.

Natashia Lucas of Fareshare Software encouraged would-be innovators to start small. “You don’t have to make a difference to the entire planet. You can make a difference to your front yard.”

GrowPlenty workshops facilitated idea-building. Participants divided into ‘worlds’ representing different points of view (government, commercial, sharing and small). Using the low-tech method of writing on Post-it notes, they brainstormed solving problems: How do we generate energy? How do we care for the earth? What would we grow? How would we deliver goods?

Ideas ranged from capturing solar energy from space; using human waste to produce energy; growing produce in giant, vertical glasshouses and automating distribution using drones.

Aesha Modi was one of 18 young people from Katikati College students who took part in GrowPlenty. The Year 12 student said she’s excited to tell her friends what she’s learned. “It’s really just a starting point for our future. There are technologies that can solve these problems that are man-made. We created the problems but we are solving them, too.”

Ray Everest with Te Awanui Huka Pak’s Kiwi Leaders programme said Techweek and Grow Plenty are building opportunities for young learners and adults to gain insight into industries such as horticulture. “ I would like to consider myself an entrepreneur, and some of these things I heard today really affirmed the things I’m doing and it also tells me some things I need to work on.”

Venture Centre and SO delivered four GrowPlenty workshops at Basestation in Tauranga’s CBD over two days.

Venture Centre co-founder Jo Allum said participants’ challenge is using their workshop experience to help build their own futures and the future of the region.


Were at the workshop? Share your Techweek pics and ideas: #goodfortheworld; #twnz; #twtga18


Venture Centre works to connect people on enterprising journeys - with each other and the mindset, skillset, toolsets, networks and resources they need - to build an ecosystem that delivers real-world, learn-by-doing events, activities, projects and experiences, and more... This event would not be possible without the sponsorship of Trustpower and the support of Tauranga City and Western Bay of Plenty District councils.


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