ICHS students Roshion Sabeeha Ishaque, Nikita Roy, Amina Patel, Lamia Akbar, and Nivetha Chandran received 2nd place (the top UofT Team) at this year’s TO Thinks Global Health Case Competition! (They're now off to Emory University's International Video Case Competition in March 2018). Congratulations!
Their idea combined a technological, revenue-generating solution (the moss walls) with a social solution (investment in urban farming). The urban farming component of their proposed social enterprise is a sustainable, profit-based initiative that directly and indirectly reduces air pollution while also addressing important equity issues related to food accessibility
Roshion, Nikita, Amina, Lamia and Nivetha wanted to construct a plan that would not only be technologically innovative but also incorporate elements that would make Toronto stand out as a Green City. They looked to Germany, a leader in green-tech solutions, and adopted the idea of a “moss wall” that is capable of filtering a wide variety of pollutants. Their plan is based on modifications to the existing technology that would suit the Toronto context better. For example, they are looking to install these on certain areas along the 401, and have proposed a ventilation system that would direct pollutants towards the walls more efficiently as these walls were initially designed to filter standing/still air and not fast-moving air. After hours of brainstorming within the team, they decided that the “live wall” combined innovation, environmental responsibility, and had revenue-generating potential that connected towards their longer-term solution: investment in urban farming.
Working on the idea project has been very rewarding for the team. “I truly feel that this competition reaffirmed my belief that I am taking away so many interdisciplinary and life long skills that I gained from my health studies courses” said Lamia
According to Nivetha, “One of the best parts of Toronto Thinks 2018 was how we had the opportunity to create an innovative idea to deal with a real-life situation in Toronto and many cities across the globe. From the day the case was released to the morning our presentation was due, we had been on our toes thinking of creative and sustainable methods to not only reduce air pollution but also invest in sustainable long-term goals”.
The team was supported by Dr.Suzanne Sicchia from the Interdisciplinary Center for Health & Society at UTSC and Dr.Kiruba Krishnaswamy, thier case advisor.
The team’s training through the Interdisciplinary Cnetre for Health and Society has been instrumental in laying an effective platform on approaching their project. According, to Amina, “Our Health Studies majors have trained us to analyze any health issue from multiple perspectives and different levels of causation. This competition was an opportunity to apply these skills and develop a solution that was inclusive of business, public health, engineering, and other sectors” Similar sentiments were reiterated by Nikita who found it interesting to see how the team was able to draw upon the foundations from their health studies courses to find an interdisciplinary solution and seeing everything come together in their presentation.
The next steps for the team is to refine their budget using a more robust cost-benefit analysis. Furthermore, they would expand on the ‘live wall’ idea and integrate it not only along highways, but in spaces downtown where it could serve as a direct way to reduce the high rates of ambient air pollution. On the urban farming front, they would look to mediate partnerships between key stakeholders like Toronto Public Health, Toronto Parks and Recreation and the communities affected by Traffic-Related Air Pollution (which are often low socioeconomic neighborhoods). Their social enterprise to address Traffic-Related Air Pollution is potentially applicable to any metropolis in the world because the technology is portable and the concept of urban farming lends itself well to most cities in the world.
According to Roshion, TO Thinks Case Competition was definitely one of the highlights of her final year at UTSC and she is looking forward to representing UofT at the Emory Global Health Case Competition in March.
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