- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) - A University of New Hampshire graduate student who proposed a project to help shrimp farmers in Bangladesh has won the student track of an annual university competition aimed at encouraging sustainable, market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges.

The New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge at the University of New Hampshire includes prizes for both students and community members. Nearly 200 individuals representing 78 teams entered this year, the fourth year the contest has been held.

The winner of the student track was Jit Banerjee, a master’s student in public policy. He proposed an operational consulting firm called Aquinput that would help shrimp farmers in Bangladesh get certification for their products and connect with distributors.

“Coastal communities in Bangladesh are on the front lines of climate change today because of sea level rise and recurrent cyclones,” he said in a video created to promote his project. “A lot of agricultural land is being contaminated with salty water and therefore a lot of rice farmers are now trying to shift to cultivating shrimp on their land.”

Banerjee says his firm would generate up to $600,000 in income for farmers and workers within the first year. And he plans to earmark $100,000 to help aid farmers in the case of unexpected climate incidents.

Banerjee received a cash prize of $5,000. A tie win for the community team went to Full Spectrum Broadband, led by 2015 UNH graduate Tom Giancola, and to DreamTech Water Solutions, which proposed a plan to eliminate dangerous compounds from public drinking water. Both teams will receive $7,500 plus $4,500 in legal services.

Fiona Wilson, director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise at UNH, said participants tackled topics as diverse as homelessness, energy efficiency, sexual assault and urban parking.

“We know that effective solutions to society’s most insidious problems will increasingly need to come from collaboration - across private and public sectors and across fields and disciplines - and this challenge not only encourages that type of innovation, but shows what it can accomplish,” Wilson said.


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