Valio invited specialist teams from around the world to enter a hackathon competition to find solutions for making use of the methane cows produce, and to reduce methane emissions. There were seven competing teams. The winners, Methanovores, solved the Methane Challenge on the barn level by collecting the methane from indoor air and using it on-site.
Finnish dairy farms have reduced their methane emissions by nearly 50 percent in the past 25 years, mostly thanks to selective breeding, but an estimated 2.5 percent of Finnish greenhouse gas emissions come from dairy production (Source: Statistics Finland, 2016). As a significant milk producer Valio wants to find new solutions that could allow us to reduce the amount of methane gas that is generated, and to make use of it as efficiently as possible.
The hackathon, held on 7-9th February, received applications from 28 teams all around the world. Seven teams made the cut. Some of the participants hailed from as far away as Brazil and India, and even the Finnish teams had plenty of international specialist members. The teams were varied networks of corporate, university, and research and expert organisation members. Methanovores, the winners, were made up of members from the Natural Resources Institute and the Technical Research Centre.
“Some of the entries were quick to implement, and some required additional work. In choosing our winner, we focused on a solution that could be implemented quickly and without too much additional work. Cooperation is a strength in science as well - by combining the best parts of various entries, we may be able to find more solutions to reduce methane emissions and to make use of existing gas,” says judge panel chair and Valio EVP Mika Koskinen.
“We are happy and surprised for this victory. Our idea is to filter out the methane from the barn's air conditioning and then refine it further, for example to produce energy,” says Cyril Bajamundi, a member of the winning team.
Methanovores, the winning team, included Tapani Kivinen, Ismo Heimonen, Cyril Bajamundi, Juha-Pekka Pitkänen and Leo Ojala. They were awarded a cash prize.
Other teams had ideas that dealt with methane emission measurement and monitoring as well as reducing emissions with different diets for the animals.
“This Hackathon was an interesting and productive way to find solutions for using and reducing methane emissions. We managed to attract just the right kind of teams. We are very happy with the results, and have various ideas that we can look at for further development,” says Virpi Jonson, Valio’s Innovation Manager responsible for the competition.
Valio partnered with hackathon organising experts at Ultrahack for the competition. The three-day competition was held at Valio’s Research & Development Center in Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki. Competitors had the help of six mentors from Valio’s farm services as well as from the research and development organisation. The mentors helped spar and guide the teams, and provided clarity business potential of their ideas.
“The Hackathon required a strong effort from us, the organisers, so that we could create the right kind of assignment where the ideas are guided in the right direction. My task as a mentor was to increase the competitors’ understanding of our wide, resource-effective milk production organisation and the role in that context,” says Juha Nousiainen Senior Vice President, Farm Services.
Teams were allowed to practice pitching their ideas under professional guidance. In pitching, the team must sell their idea to the judges’ panel in five minutes, requiring an effective and impressive performance.
The ideas were put under the eye of a five-person panel, consisting of bio-economy and clean tech Development Director Jarmo Heinonen from Business Finland, Deputy Director General Liisa Saarenmaa from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Global Eco Solutions CEO Kari Larjava, and Valio EVP Mika Koskinen and Vesa Kaunisto, Chairman of the Board