Fruit peel tea, incense and bioethanol go head-to-head in business competition

Date 9.12.2022

Students pitched innovative ideas to support Northamptonshire fruit-produce business, Blue Skies, to enhance their sustainable business practices, at this year’s FBL Challenge business competition.

Undergraduate, post-graduates and MBA students from across the Faculty of Business and Law presented their creative solutions to tackle Blue Skies operational goals to create zero waste, net-zero emissions, and zero poverty within their global operations.

This dragon’s den style completion judged by Northamptonshire fruit-processing business Blue Skies saw a panel of judges, composed of senior figures from both Blue Skies and the University, assess the students on their creativity, innovation, and the quality of their business ideas.

In the hotly contested business competition, students presented a host of potential developments for Blue Skies, including pineapple peel fruit tea set to reduce the typical 40-50% wastage from the exotic fruit, migrating the market for mango seed mukhwas into the UK, and exploring the potential of conversion of food waste to eco-bioethanol.

Senior figureheads from the challenge’s sponsors, Blue Skies and BEB Legal Consultancy, and from within the University listened to the propositions from the four student teams, and assessed the presentations on quality, depth of industry knowledge, creativity, and innovation.

Team presenting in ground floor of Learning Hub

The winning idea, pitched by students Jinal Thakkar, Jennifer O. Okeoma and Charles Williams, presented a plan to introduce natural incense sticks using mango peel and banana leaf fruit waste into the Blue Skies brand, providing a less toxic, biodegradable alternative into homes and religious practices across the UK. The idea gave the Blue Skies team food for thought, and the winning students will have the opportunity to discuss their idea one-on-one with the Blue Skies’ CEO in coming weeks.

Simon Derrick, Head of Sustainability at Blue Skies, said: “Blue Skies are committed to adding value at source and throughout our operations, and to continually embrace sustainable business practices. We take our responsibility to sustainability very seriously and run many initiatives to enhance the impact that we have on the planet. But we know there is far more that we could be doing, and so we’re constantly on the lookout for new technologies and ideas – which is where the students at The University of Northampton come in!

“The students of today will bring the solutions of tomorrow, and so we must work together to find these solutions and address the challenges that we all face. The hard work and creativity that the students put into their presentations have been truly inspiring.

“It was very difficult to pick just one winner from such enthusiastic teams, by participating each of the teams are winners in my eyes, congratulations to everyone who took part.”

“The winning idea from Jinal, Jennifer and Charles has got me and the other members of the team thinking, and we’re excited to see what can be developed here with the students and the University.”

Dr Ebenezer Laryea, Associate Professor in International Sustainable Development Law and organiser of the challenge, added: “I’m very proud of all the students who participated in this year’s FBL Challenge. This an annual opportunity for our students to apply the knowledge they are gaining from their courses to craft solutions to relevant issues raised by challenging commercial problems.

“As a faculty, we are extremely proud of the collaborative work we do with businesses to tackle the most complex commercial challenges. Within their three weeks of focus on the project, the kind of lateral thinking and fresh ideas that were displayed by the students who took part been inspiring, and I look forward to following their professional working careers as they continue striving towards a brighter future for our planet.”

The four finalists were:

Scented Diamonds: Jinal Thakkar (studying MSc Business Analytics), Jennifer O. Okeoma (studying MBA with placement) and Charles Williams (studying MBA with placement)

Team Phoenix: Pamela Mupungayi, Teslimah Ousi and Bongiwe Maphosa (all in their third-year studies of Law LLB).

Fruit Busters: Abishek Shah, Megan Burgess and Deme Sytadin, all in their third-year studies of International Business Management).

Eco Warriors: Shubham Tiwari (studying MBA with placement), Shambhavi Pendyam (studying MBA) and Anupam Pandey (studying MBA Finance with placement).

Four challenge teams pictured next to wall