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Breathalyser for plants wins Research Pitching Competition

Eight early-career scientists pitched their ideas at the Research Pitching Competition.

The winner of the grand prize, the 100 000 euro Skolar Award grant, is Thomas Hausmaninger from the National Metrology Institute of Finland.

Large scale indoor farming has the potential to become the next big thing in food production. For this, we need to better understand plants and the conditions in which they can thrive. This is what Thomas Hausmaninger from the National Metrology Institute of Finland, VTT MIKES pitched at Europe’s leading startup event Slush and won.

“I probably don’t realize what happened just yet. It’s been an amazing experience, all the other finalists were amazing. I have a clear project in mind, which I can now continue,” Hausmaninger said.

Research Pitching Competition by Slush & Skolar is an international research pitching competition for postdoc researchers. The main prize of 100 000 euros is meant for advancing the winner’s research idea.

Hausmaninger is determined to find a way to know exactly what plants need. He aims to create a breathalyser test for plants to understand and create ideal conditions for indoor farming. This test would provide a way to detect and monitor factors such as water and nutrients usage, amount and spectrum of light, or pest invasion, in real-time and in a non-invasive way.

The other finalist’s ideas varied from finding out whether bacteria can hear to studying the brain mechanisms of couch potatoes and saving coral reefs from climate change.

“All ideas were vast and forward-thinking. We found the winner really met the criteria, especially in its courageousness and academic excellence. The jury was especially impressed from a sustainability standpoint: the idea has the potential to really revolutionize food and manufacturing by bringing them closer to people”, said jury member Elizabeth Jochum, Associate professor in the Research Laboratory for Art and Technology at Aalborg University.

The academic jury selecting the winner at Slush consisted of last year’s winner, cancer researcher Sandra Järnström, Academy Professor Kari Enqvist, Professor of gamification Juho Hamari, Professor of sustainability science Helena Kahiluoto and Professor of sustainable production systems Lihui Wang.


Photo: Vilja Pursiainen