Finalists from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago Deliver Winning Pitches in the 2022 Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank Competition

The Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C) Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank Competition, provides a unique opportunity for young persons from the Caribbean, aged 18 to 34 years, to pitch innovative and impactful water-related projects or ideas to support better water resources management in their community, country or the Caribbean region.

This year’s competition culminated in October 2022, with a total of seven (7) finalists pitching their projects or ideas under two (2) categories. Under each category, a prize of US$4,000 will be awarded for the best pitch:

Category 1:

  • Water and Agriculture
  • Water and Climate
  • Water and Health
  • Water and Energy
  • Water and Tourism

Category 2:

  • Integrated Water and Wastewater Management (IWWM)

The introduction of Category 2 under the theme Integrated Water and Wastewater Management (IWWM) and the award of US$4,000 was made possible through GWP-C’s partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and Cartagena Convention Secretariat through the Global Environment Facility-funded (GEF) CReW+ Project to support awareness raising and strengthening capacity in the area of IWWM in the Caribbean.

The finalists pitched their project/idea to the competition’s “Sharks/Judges” who examined their presentations based on:

  • Whether a clear problem and solution were identified
  • The project/idea’s relevance to better water resources or wastewater management
  • Innovativeness/originality
  • Feasibility of implementation/viability
  • Potential for impact and scalability
  • Market familiarity
  • Financial feasibility and revenue generation
  • Overall strength of the pitch

THE CATEGORY 1 WINNERS (Water Management)

GWP-C is pleased to announce that the winner under Category 1 of the competition is the duo Dean Morris (31 years) and Nicholas Kee (27 years) from Jamaica. Dean delivered the winning pitch, securing US$4,000 to advance their project “Kee Farms” under the themes “Water and Agriculture and Water and Climate.” 

Kee Farms is a regenerative ocean farm network, focused on climate change mitigation through nature-based carbon removal to provide premium carbon credits for sale to the market. According to Dean and Nicholas “We are cultivating, harvesting, and collecting oysters and three (3) different species of seaweed; though our primary revenue sources stem from Gracilaria seaweed and sargassum seaweed.”

Kee Farms is leveraging science as an economic accelerator, creating opportunity while mitigating climate change as a cohesive business model designed to tackle all three (3) key risks: environmental, economic and social. This impact is achieved through seaweed and oyster cultivation, which removes carbon from the atmosphere and unlocks potential for climate sustaining activities that drive revenues. This impact is scaled by working with local fisherfolk. Through flexing network potential, they empower local economies and workers to scale at a greater level. The flexibility in revenue streams, inclusive of carbon credits, biomass, and by-products, mitigates risk to both Kee Farms and their partners and creates a stable economic engine for good.

Nicholas, Dean and another team member are seen here on the ocean, checking on their seaweed harvest.

The Problem and Solution

When asked about the problem their project is addressing, Dean and Nicholas explained that the climate crisis has wreaked havoc on the environment, leading to accelerated deterioration of the world’s various ecosystems. This ecological weakening has had a trickle-on effect, straining existing economies and food systems. Certain regions, including the Caribbean, and Jamaica specifically, have been disproportionately harmed.

The project’s major focus is multitrophic mariculture. By growing seaweed, they can make many different products, one of which is biochar. Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that’s made by burning organic material from agricultural and forestry wastes (also called biomass) in a controlled process called pyrolysis. Although it looks a lot like common charcoal, biochar is produced using a specific process to reduce contamination and safely store carbon.

What makes their project innovative in addressing a water-related issue, is that with biochar added to any soil, water savings can generally account for 37.9%. It reduces nitrogen leaching into groundwater and runoff into surface water, which is a problem with synthetic fertilisers. Biochar can also capture and filter pollutants out of the water, including metals. For this reason, biochar has been successfully used in the wastewater treatment process as well.

Scenes from on the field at Kee Farms.

Plans for the Project and Investing the US$4,000

Through their project “Kee Farms,” Dean and Nicholas are working with public and private organisations across the region and the world. Their biggest partner, the Alligator Head Foundation; a marine sanctuary that gave them land, water and equipment to run their pilot which is in its fourth month. They have also received support from the Democratizing Innovation in the Americas (DIA), the British Embassy in Jamaica, The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Seaworthy Collective and others. 

They shared that in the future, they would love to engage with organisations like the Billion Oyster Project; whose model in New York Harbour can be replicated in Jamaica and most territories and local authorities in different Caribbean states. Replication can therefore be done on a national level throughout the region with local partners.

When asked how they plan to invest their award of US$4,000 into the project, the duo said “We have figured out a method that works currently but, we’re still doing research into other potential methodologies and we will use the funding towards purchasing more materials to prove other models that can be more cost effective.”

Dean and Nicholas were asked what they would want people to remember about their project. They stated, “We want to foster healthy and profitable relationships with the ocean.”

Get to Know the Category 1 Winners

Dean Morris is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Kee Farms. Since 2014, the 31-year-old from Jamaica, has been working with environmental and farming-focused start-ups. His current focus is developing sustainable mariculture methodologies for fisherfolk communities and sensitising the wider Jamaica and the Caribbean on ocean farming strategies.

Dean Morris – Part of the winning duo (under category 1) of the 2022 GWP-C Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank Competition.

Nicholas Kee is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kee Farms. The 27-year-old is also from Jamaica. Before entering the climate change space, he spent most of his time as a technologist and entrepreneur having run Next Gen Creators – a tech non-profit focused on teaching youth in the Caribbean how to code and acquire job roles in the global tech space. He spends his time developing frameworks for climate change mitigation that can be adopted for the Caribbean.

Nicholas Kee – Part of the winning duo (under category 1) of the 2022 GWP-C Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank Competition.

Dean and Nicholas expressed that being the winners under category 1 of the 2022 Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank competition, presents them with the opportunity to connect with other climate entrepreneurs from various countries. In their words “Winning the competition was monumental to what we’re trying to achieve. It gives us not only funding we needed but also a platform to achieve more.”

THE CATEGORY 2 WINNER (Integrated Water and Wastewater Management – IWWM)

GWP-C is pleased to announce that the winner under Category 2 of the competition is 20-year-old Keston Singh from Trinidad and Tobago. He delivered the winning pitch, securing US$4,000 to advance his new project idea “Aqua Clean” under the theme “Integrated Water and Wastewater Management (IWWM).” 

Keston explained that Aqua Clean is meant to be a portable device, that can filter and purify dirty water, whether it be water from sewers, water from flooding or wastewater into clean, potable water. The device will use a combination of methods to filter the water. He proposes that the device will be solar powered to reduce negative impacts on the climate but may also be powered by electric current gained from fossil fuels.

There will be seven (7) processes which take place in the Aqua Clean device. Before the initiation of these processes, water will enter the system via a water pump through a mesh hose to avoid any large particles getting into the system. From the water pump, the water enters process 1, which is the sedimentation process I. Here, the water goes through four (4) levels of sediment tanks that contain weight sensors (powered by hermetically load cells). As it progresses, each level gets smaller in pore size. The use of the weight sensors is to notify owners when the filters need cleaning or in some cases, changing. The filtered water from process 1 then enters process 2, which is the sedimentation process II. Filtration levels increase, as the filter beds contain aerated filters and aerobic micro-organisms. The waste products from this stage can be used as fertiliser.

The water is then sent to process 3 which uses activated carbon to help reduce odour and taste. After this, the water is then sent to process 4, which is a heating chamber. The “chamber” contains automatic valves, weight sensors and a heating strip. When the chamber reaches a certain weight, the valves are closed prohibiting any water from entering or leaving. The water in the chamber is then heated by the heating sensor that uses electrical power from the solar power or fossil fuels at 120°C for ten (10) minutes. This kills germs, bacteria, viruses and parasites. 

The water is then sent to process 5 which is a sand chamber, here it cools and further undergoes filtration. It then goes to process 6 which is a reverse osmosis system. Here, only water molecules pass through at 80psi. As the filter works at 0.0001 microns, no other ions or solids can pass through. After this stage, the water is essentially pure water with no minerals, as this ensures desalination and all minerals would have been removed. This then leads to the final process, which is process 7; the mineralisation stage as calcium, magnesium and chlorine are added in beneficial amounts. When the water from process 6 enters, the weight sensors would cause the valves to close, allowing the device to drop the minerals in the necessary amounts and then an oscillating mixer would mix the water to produce potable water. This water is then sent out through a pipe and is ready for use.

The Problem and Solution

According to Keston, with the Aqua Clean device “I am trying to help provide a constant water supply and use flooding as a benefit to the affected. Usually in Trinidad, people who are most affected by flooding are the same persons who don’t have a regular supply of water; instead they may receive water less than three (3) days per week. When flooding affects said persons, a device like this would benefit them as they can filter the flood water and receive potable water as the end product.”

He further explains that the idea is relevant to supporting better water management as “dirty water can be filtered and reused. The issue of flooding was the motivation in developing the idea, however the device can be applied for everyday use in homes as well.” In terms of the innovativeness behind the idea, Keston explained that though various solutions like “Aqua Clean” exist, most of them do not use a combination of methods similar to that of a large-scale water treatment plant as a means to produce potable water.

Plans for the Project and Investing the US$4,000

As the idea of Aqua Clean is rolled out further, Keston indicated that apart from his main target audience (i.e. citizens affected by flooding), he would hope to engage water utility companies and the government in the future. He intends to invest his US$4,000 award in developing a prototype of the Aqua Clean device.

Get to Know the Category 2 Winner

Keston Singh – Winner (under category 2) of the 2022 GWP-C Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank Competition.

Keston Singh grew up in Claxton Bay, Trinidad. The now 20-year-old is a second year Medical Student in the Faculty of Medicine at The University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad with an interest in the field of neurosurgery. He shared that his interest in water management developed when he was in 6th Form in secondary school where he studied Environmental Science and it continues to hold his attention.

Prior to entering the GWP-C Shark Tank Competition, Keston indicated that he had been exploring different way to improve water management issues in his country and the competition was the encouragement he needed to turn his thoughts into action.

He expressed that being the winner (under category 2) of the competition means a lot to him and that he is now getting started in helping the world and making a positive impact on it. According to him “I would like people to always remember, that once there is a problem, there is always a solution. The solution may not present itself right away but through determination, trial and error, a solution can be found.”

We wish to congratulate Dean Morris, Nicholas Kee and Keston Singh on being the winners of the 2022 Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank Competition. We must also acknowledge the other amazing Finalists in the competition:

  • Roubech Frantz Ady Ilan and Kenia Jean-Baptiste (Haiti)
  • Gabriel Barinas (Dominican Republic)
  • Shomar Lindsay (Jamaica)
  • Dareem Jeffrey (Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Joshua Prentice and Christianne Zakour (Trinidad and Tobago)

Special mention must also be made of our Sharks/Judges in the competition. Finally, we must express our sincere thanks to all ours partners in the 2022 edition of this competition:

The United Nations Environment Programme Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and Cartagena Convention Secretariat through the Global Environment Facility-funded (GEF) CReW+ Project – who enabled us to introduce the IWWM category for the first time in the competition with an additional seed funding award of US$4,000.

The Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC) – Finalists in the competition will benefit from being part of CCIC’s upcoming entrepreneurial boot camps if hosted/available in their respective countries.

DIA (Democratizing Innovation in the Americas); which is a regional initiative of The Trust for the Americas and the Organization of American States (OAS) – Finalists in the competition will benefit from being part of DIA’s upcoming Caribbean Labs if hosted/available in their respective countries.

Through the Young Caribbean Water Entrepreneurs Shark Tank competition, GWP-C and its Partners are committed to empowering young people to be agents of change in contributing to and advancing Caribbean water security.