Cranfield University is proud to be among a network of distinguished organisations from around the world chosen as official nominators of The Earthshot Prize.

Please join us in congratulating the nominees whose solutions, we believe, will make a substantial contribution to achieving the Earthshots.

Africa Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Cooling and Cold-chain (ACES) - accelerating sustainable cold-chain solutions for food loss reduction and empowering small-holder farmers

Lack of effective cold-chain results in the loss of 526 million tons of food produced (12% of the global total) with direct impact on food security, nutrition and rural poverty, environment and natural resources.

Cold-chains must work seamlessly and continuously from farm to fork, globally so ACES, which is a partnership, led by the University of Birmingham and including Cranfield University, London South Bank University and Heriot-Watt University, is developing and accelerating sustainable cold-chain solutions for food loss reduction, empowering small-holder farmers. The Centre of Excellence has designed comprehensive training programmes to roll out knowledge and build capacity to ensure a sustainable and resilient system. They have engaged with international governments to bring transformation needs for net-zero into policy; brought industry partners to collaborate with ACES and implement solutions into real-world scenarios; collaborated with local farmers to enrol in their programmes to improve their products and increase their income; promoted the role of women in agrifood systems; and created jobs in-country to ensure a bottom-up approach for a self-sustained model. Even though its headquarters are in Rwanda, ACES branches out to specialised outreach centres (SPOKEs) in Africa including Community Cooling Hubs, showcasing different scenarios and ensuring that solutions are implemented internationally.

ACES is a first-of-its-kind Centre dedicated to sustainable, equitable and resilient cold-chain, cooling and postharvest management. It is a unique aggregation of applied research, demonstration and testing, learning and teaching, industrial collaboration, awareness raising and outreach to address a global challenge: how to provide access to cold-chains to small and marginal farmers in an efficient, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner that builds resilience and achieves the UN SDGs.

ACES is a unique facility in the world, and we don’t believe there is any other organisation or partnership doing anything similar.

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Alchemie Technology – Textile dyeing without wastewater

Textile dyeing and finishing processes are some of the most polluting manufacturing processes on the planet and are responsible for over 3% of global CO2 emissions and over 20% of global water pollution. Alchemie Technology believes its digital dyeing and finishing technologies can dramatically reduce energy consumption and eliminate contaminated wastewater emissions.

Alchemies' unique proprietary jetting technology penetrates microdroplets of dye deep into fabric fibres and uses infrared energy to activate dye fixation, which removes the water requirement and high-energy fabric washing relied on by traditional dyeing techniques. The technology is based on reducing the amount of chemicals and as such contributes to reducing pollution.

The solution could be very impactful in a high-tech factory and replace industrial processes as there is significant process efficiency and scale-up potential. We also believe that combining Colourifix’s DNA dyes (2023 finalist) in this fixing system would make a good system.

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AGU Thriving Earth Exchange - An exchange for citizen and community science

AGU Thriving Earth Exchange is a program that connects communities of all types with volunteer scientists and technical experts to address community priorities related to pollution, environmental health, resilience, sustainability, climate change, natural hazards, and natural resources to co-create tools and solutions that are feasible and impactful at the local level within 18 months and managed by volunteer project managers.

At the time of submission, AGU Thriving Earth Exchange had completed 300 projects which have included 685 community leaders, 425 volunteer scientists/technical experts, 211 volunteer project managers (Community Science Fellows), worked within 46 USA States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and in 11 countries. While based in the US, the programme supports initiatives in developing countries and has the potential to scale up and could be scaled to other continents.

AGU is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive scientific culture, as well as being impactful in its respectful communities and using relevant metrics. They also showcase the impacts and outcomes of each project to encourage communities to learn from one another and replicate the tools and solutions from one project to another.

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Firefly - Sewage-to-Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) technology

Aviation is an important part of a connected, modern world; however, the aviation industry is a major polluter and is focused on solutions that will help it to decarbonise. Firefly’s sewage-to-SAF technology is a step towards realising a scalable solution for the aviation industry’s carbon footprint.

Firefly’s route to SAF can provide benefits in how we repurpose sludge, an otherwise problematic waste material. Currently, sewage is disposed of through agricultural spreading (a practice which many countries have already banned due to ecological damage caused by runoff), or through incineration. The process promises a new economically and environmentally sound destination for sludge and addresses two of the biggest issues we have – sewage and aviation. Both are difficult and controversial subject matters, but we’re not going to be able to make transport work without tackling difficult and controversial big issues.

Firefly use a biogenic and perpetually generated feedstock - giving an exceptional carbon saving, and importantly, certainty around supply. By using a low-cost 'true waste' they believe they can produce affordable SAF, enabling the aviation industry to decarbonize without significant financial burden to passengers.

What we find really inspiring about this solution is the real potential to get children interested in science through a ‘Horrible Histories’ factor.

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Hybrid solar cooker for off-grid communities - providing both clean cooking and off-grid electricity

Cranfield University has developed a CSP (concentrate solar power) and TEG (thermoelectric generator) combined technology that can generate heat for cooking and utilise the waste heat to generate electricity. The technology is an affordable and zero-emission stove energy generation and storage system that directly utilises solar energy by CSP and eliminates the three-step energy conversions in PV, improving energy efficiency for clean cooking. The TEG harvests energy from the waste heat and turns it into electricity that provides electrical power to off-grid communities.

This technology will provide a step-change solution to tackle air pollution and power shortage in developing countries, the clean energy system will also significantly reduce the black carbon and carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change and global warming. With two prototyped working demonstrators, the technology has been proven to work and we believe that it can bring benefits to communities all over the world – it is genuinely transferable to different economies.

Currently, most of the development in improving energy access and clean cooking focuses on PV and alternative fuels. Solar PV can be used to provide off-grid power and is being developed for clean cooking. However, the PV system is expensive and can cost £1/W in solar panels. The alternative and cleaner fuels to the traditionally used firewood and charcoal, such as kerosene and LPG, produce less air pollution but are more expensive - usually costing more than three times the purchased firewood and charcoal.

There is no such product that can provide both clean cooking and off-grid electricity and therefore we believe it will have a significant impact on the adoption of the technology and further commercialisation in sub-Saharan countries and others around the globe.

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Make it Count! - Ecosystem Quantification of semi-arid African Savannah in transparent detail

Developed from a 10,000-ha model of wildlife in the Kalahari Desert, we are nominating this solution that seeks to build datasets to record and preserve biodiversity areas. It is a unique and clever idea, and while the technology is not new, we believe the application of it is.

The solution employs cutting-edge UAV and Machine Learning/AI algorithm technologies to link with traditional local expert domain knowledge directly in the field, offering unique and technologically leader capabilities for data capture and analysis. This builds biodiversity-based, digital innovation resources that can be used to preserve ecosystems in a future nature-conscious global economy. Their current, real-life case study is used to inspire others, openly showing how the digitalisation of natural assets can create in silico representation of ecosystem features making them available as measurable biodiversity gains for the eco-economy of the future.

This preventative approach offers a highly transferable hardware and AI-based solution. Incorporating local indigenous knowledge, the development of digital biodiversity innovation benefits the local community by yielding quick, robust and meaningful results to local rangers and provides accurate vegetation and wildlife census data counts on species for local biodiversity management.

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Plant Pixel - Nature-inspired solution that enhances green facades, promotes biodiversity and reduces urban heat islands

Inspired by rock walls, Plant Pixel uses recycled and local materials to reduce carbon and costs and it stands out from traditional Green façade systems (GFS) with its innovative design, including plug-in modules and varying lengths for irregularities. This adaptability and simplicity ensures affordability, accessibility, and ease of customisation, promoting social inclusion and biodiversity. The solution prioritises the use of local plant species, promoting urban biodiversity by creating habitats for various species, and various module types have been developed for plant growth and to serve as habitats for urban ecosystem inhabitants such as insects, birds, and bats. Additionally, it gives urban designers the power to create their own green facades by arranging modular cubes like Lego. In tests, the prototype improved outdoor thermal comfort by reducing summer temperatures by 3.3°C and 1.9°C at 10 cm and 40 cm from the prototype.

Plant Pixel’s solution addresses urban area ecosystems and biodiversity from both an environmental and a social perspective - it promotes mental wellbeing and social engagement.

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SharkGuard – Supporting sustainable fishing by preventing bycatch and unwanted sharks from being caught

Iconic species of shark are quietly being wiped off the face of the planet due to unselective fishing practices, they are unintentionally attracted, and subsequently caught by baited longline hooks intended for tuna.

SharkGuard supports sustainable fishing by preventing bycatch and unwanted sharks from being caught. To date, a solution hasn’t existed that enables the conservation of sharks to co-exist with fishing operations. SharkGuard is disruptive in this regard and can help meet conservation objectives for sharks without inhibiting “business as usual” fishing practices. Scientific trials have shown a demonstrated benefit and have been highly successful, preventing the bycatch of 284 sharks and rays (reduced by 91%).

Other approaches to reducing shark bycatch rely on spatial and temporal management restrictions. These dictate fishing practices and are unpopular with fishers, limiting uptake, compliance and effectiveness. Alternative hook designs, bait types, or line materials might improve survival rates but don’t reduce bycatch and all alter the way fishing is carried out. SharkGuard doesn’t alter fishing practices and is the only technology suitable for a commercial longline setting that radically reduces shark bycatch without impacting normal fishing operations.

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The Sustainable and Affordable Fuel for Energy (SAFE) project - Improving green energy access and health outcomes for vulnerable households

Cooking with biomass is proven to be damaging to the health of users. The World Health Organisation estimate that 50% of premature deaths among children are attributed to indoor air pollution. Women and children typically are responsible for the household chore of collecting firewood (which is in itself dangerous) and cooking, and so bear the greatest health burden from polluting fuels.

BCB have developed and patented a method of solidifying ethanol, the solidified ethanol (FireDragon) can then be used as a cooking fuel due to its odourless, high-performing and clean-burning qualities. It is different to other clean cooking products in that it is compatible with existing firewood and charcoal stoves which means it allows the user to continue using traditional cooking methods.

FireDragon can alleviate some of the respiratory health challenges from burning highly polluting wood or oil-based fuels as well as contributing to reducing greenhouse gases and deforestation, improving gender equality, and helping the local economy. The project does this by making the ethanol for FireDragon from waste vegetation to reduce the amount in landfills - and it will localise production and embed the end user by having them involved in the decision-making process and employing the local community in production and distribution sectors.

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