Natural fibers that recognize entrepreneurial talent
It had been scarcely two days since they landed in Spain from Silicon Valley, so strong emotions have not yet gone away. After an intense week in the mecca of innovation, the 52 local winning entrepreneurs of the program Explorer Jóvenes con Ideas of Banco Santander, arrived in Madrid full of experiences, emotion and vitality to take part in the final prizes, the Explorer Awards.
One by one, the winners of this edition went up on stage totally surprised and satisfied. They didn’t expect it. At least not Néstor Santiago, from Gran Canaria Explorer Space, who was awarded second prize with a value of 20,000 euros thanks to Fibras Naturales Canarias, a circular economy startup that recovers and transforms residue of millions of trunks of banana trees to obtain bioplastic. “I was quite convinced that the winning projects would be related to software issues, as they are more linked to the Silicon Valley environment”, this Canary man, passionate about entrepreneurship, said.
His project was born through the Universidad de Gran Canaria aimed at helping his land, thanks to the financing of the European Program Life Baqua. In fact, Néstor entered in the project once it was already started. “Fibras Naturales Canarias was born by itself because of a need to use the residues generated in the banana cultivations across the island”, he said.
Coming back to his day to day after “living the dream in Silicon Valley”, he explains that the trunks of bananas trees, once cut off, are brought to a processing center to be transformed into natural fibers which then become bags given to the farmers to cover the peanuts during the months of maturation. Apiculture feed, biodegradable containers or fertilizers are other uses that this industrial processing patented by the Universidad de Gran Canaria gives to millions of discarded trunks.
Fight against the single use plastic
Farmers, citizens and companies benefit from this innovative idea that motivates the circular economy, “thanks to which there is a reduction of plastic bags in cultivations, where 130 tons of bags once disintegrated and contaminated the land every year only in Gran Canaria”, the second winner Explorer 2019 explains.
To the question how did the opportunity to take part in the project appear, the answer of Néstor was surprising and unexpected: “My father has always had a company to manufacture single use containers – he remembers amusedly on the other end of the phone, and this idea of the University boosted other type of containers in support of the environment and sustainability”. A kind of juvenile reaction that turned into a reality that aims to help, among other things, “Canary Islands to import increasingly fewer plastic containers”.
Once the phase of investigation has ended, Fibras Naturales Canarias is now in the middle of a diffusion process, “what we need is investing”. So, the 20,000 euros of the second prize Explorer will imply an important boost as “we are investing this money in carrying out tests to keep developing the project, sending and improving the corporative image”, Néstor Santiago said. At the same time, “we wait for the Government of Canary Islands to be involved, as this model of business can help our land though the creation of new businesses, reduction of pollution, etc”.
Silicon Valley, a dream came true
This Canary young man recognized that he signed up to the program Explorer promoted by Santander with the coordination of the Centro Internacional Santander Emprendimiento, CISE, because he wanted to go to Silicon Valley. And he got it: “it has been a dream come true, being at the mecca of innovation, where everything emerged, where there are the origins of entrepreneurship as we know today”. He told us: “all that glitters is not gold. In Silicon Valley I learned that everything has a double side, so we have to welcome what we have”.
BactiDec, boosted by José Rodríguez and Carlos de Frías, from the Explorer Space Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, was selected as the best entrepreneurial idea of the year
He said that the best of this experience, besides “checking that you can get whatever you propose with effort”, has been the opportunity of meeting and living with 53 of the geniuses of entrepreneurship”, with whom, beyond the personal relationship they will keep forever, “there are many possibilities of starting to collaborate”.
The best entrepreneurs “Made in Spain” of 2019
During the Explorer Award ceremony, Néstor Santiago shared the stage with José Rodríguez, Sofía Belenguer, Laura San Felipe, Eva Sarachaga and Carlos Roca, the other winners of the culmination of the edition of this year of programa Explorer.
BactiDec, boosted by José Rodríguez and Carlos de Frías, from the Explorer Space Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, was selected as the best entrepreneurial idea of the year and awarded with 30,000 euros. This biotech startup has created a device that lets the surgeon know at the time the number of bacteria located in the surgical wound while s/he operates, allowing an early diagnosis, improving the speed of treatment and avoiding complications generated by post-surgical infections.
Meanwhile, Sofía Belenguer and Antonio Mancha, from the Explorer Space of the Universidad Pompeu Fabra, were awarded with the third prize thanks to MyRealFood, a mobile app that lets you know the nutritional quality of food and that uses suggested receipts, gamification and a community to cheer the users up.
The winners podium was completed with the startup BAR-ID of the entrepreneurs Laura San Felipe and Eva Sarachaga, who came from the Explorer Space of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, awarded with the prize of the best initiative promoted by a woman; and the startup Altenea, promoted by Carlos Roca from the Explorer Space of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, awarded with the prize of the most disruptive technology.