Hult Prize at Tokyo International University: Interview with the Winning Team, H2O Grow
I had the honor to speak with the winning team from the Hult Prize OnCampus Program at Tokyo International University, H2O Grow, aiming to change the food cycle by producing and providing sustainable and viable organic food. The team consists of 4 all-female TIU undergraduate students Nama Nyachhyon, Shreya Data, Vaamika Sinha, and Roja Kamiyama.
Author: Saki Arimoto | Published date: 12 November 2020
How did you come up with the idea of H2O Grow?
Nama: Before we thought of the idea, we were all brainstorming and coming up with ideas like preparing nutritional food, packaging food, and transforming existing healthy food with a new taste. But we were still not satisfied so we continued brainstorming until one day, I randomly thought of clearing up my photo gallery. Then I stumbled upon my pictures back from when I visited Africa. At the same time, Vaamika and Roja were talking about agricultural problems being discussed in their classes. All these things happening at the same time, we realized that all the ideas we thought of before weren’t really the problems we will be facing in the long run. In Africa, there are still problems with the majority of land being dry, lack of water, and the like. People in the country only use water for drinking purposes and not growing crops. So from this, we thought that just from this, people won’t have enough food for daily consumption, so there’s no point in making packaging for food or creating new taste. That is how we thought of aquaponics.
Vaamika: This was also the idea accepted by everyone, and there was no discussion. Everyone was like, ‘okay, let’s do this.’
Shreya: It is funny because it is my first time hearing this story, too! It is the first time Nama has shared with us about the photo gallery.
Roja: We didn’t really ask, too. Haha!
What were the challenges you had to go through as you prepared for the final pitch?
Shreya: I think just the night before the final pitch, we were really tense about the Q&A round because we were insecure that we have not conveyed that much adequate information in our presentation. Our topic, aquaponics, is so technical which requires a lot of science, and we were scared that the judges might ask any scientific questions. We were just amateurs, and we have not built the [prototypes] yet. So we spent 2-3 hours thinking about what kind of questions we could answer. That was the toughest part for me.
Vaamika: It was like a rollercoaster. We were practicing, and we felt we were doing fine. Then, suddenly someone comes up with a question, and we were like, “This is something we should talk about…”
Roja: Our topic was perfect for science majors, but not for our majors (International Relations and Business Economics). We expected to have a lot of scientific questions, so on that day, we were searching so much that I felt like a scientist!
What did you learn throughout the whole journey?
"For me, being an IR student, you do not think about a business pitch. You usually don’t go into that lane, and then, when Nama, Shreya, and I discussed that the UN (United Nations) is part of it. So I thought that maybe I should go for it. Initially, it was okay going with the flow. As we started working on it, doing the presentation, calling each other, discussing each and everything, and practicing, it became a part of something we had to do. The exposure of judges asking questions and teams presenting felt like a competition after so many years, and the feeling of waiting for the results were really nice."
" Personally, I have trouble working with teams. Usually, in college, you get to work with your group for just one week, but for this competition, we worked together for months and probably the longest time I worked with a team! So I think I have improved myself on how I should work with a team and how important it is to work in a team. Every person has their own role, strengths, and capabilities, and you just need to figure out how you can make use of them for your project. "
"For me, I learned that starting a business is not that easy. We had to come up with different business models, financial statements, and the like. We spent a lot of time doing research, at the same time, maintaining our classes. That is where I realized that patience is the key. Nothing happens in the blink of an eye."
"I think I learned how to become more professional because this is my first time involving myself in this kind of environment. I initially was not very fond of business, and here I needed to talk about business terms like revenues, expenses, etc. So I had to put myself in someone else’s shoes and step inside. I needed to make myself like this because this is our possible future. I had to put aside my outside feelings and be professional. Gradually, I learned to like it, especially because of [my team]. I also came up with a mindset that since it is a competition, I should enjoy and have memories, rather than, thinking of winning. It was really all about the journey. The biggest parts here are hard work and doing our best. Whatever the result is, as long as we tried our best, that would remain a good thing in itself. "
While this ends their journey in the Hult Prize OnCampus Program at Tokyo International University, another journey awaits them for the Regionals Round to compete with the rest of the OnCampus winners. But for now, congratulations to H2O Grow! All their hard work paid off and I wish them the best of luck with the upcoming rounds.
For more details, please access the link here.
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