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Saving us from plastic soup

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One afternoon, whilst enjoying a cup of coffee at the V&A Waterfront, Richard Hardiman witnessed something that would change his life. He watched two men in a boat, armed with nothing but a pool-net, taking plastic trash out of the water. He recalls, “the wind and tide were pushing vast amounts of rubbish out to sea, and the men didn’t seem to be getting much of it into the boat”. The frustrating inefficiency of this process really bothered Hardiman and he couldn’t let go of the thought “surely, there must be a better way to do that”.

Fuelled by curiosity, he began researching how large cities remove trash from their waterways, and he discovered that there was no other way of doing it. Four years later, Hardiman leads Ranmarine, a tech start-up in Cape Town and Rotterdam, inventor of the WasteShark. This remote controlled nautical drone cleans water surfaces in harbours by scooping up waste. Hardiman realised that 80% of plastic waste in the ocean comes from harbours, marinas, ports, and storm water drains and the WasteShark is designed to target these areas.

Currently there are ten WasteSharks being tested around the world, in India, the Netherlands, the USA and Cape Town’s V&A harbour. The compact and agile WasteShark can remove 350kg of waste at a time and can swim for 16 hours a day. It has no carbon emissions and does not harm wildlife. It can also be customised to scoop up chemical spills. Apart from picking up trash, it collects valuable data. Hardiman explains, “sensors collect data on water depth, chemical composition and salinity – that’s very exciting from a technological point of view. We can really investigate the quality of our water”.

What began as curiosity turned into “accidental environmentalism” as Hardiman’s research revealed the state of the world’s oceans. “I began to worry for the safety of our planet.  I realised that 8 million tons of plastic go into the ocean every year – and this will get worse, tenfold, over the next decade. By 2025 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are fish. Our oceans are becoming plastic soup.” He says this threatens our sea life and our food chain. “Fish are eating the plastic, and this is returning to us on our plates.”

This sparked Hardiman’s sense of social responsibility. “I knew I had to do something. I guess I developed a guilty conscience, but it spurred me to act, to put my entrepreneurial streak to good use. Also, work is much more meaningful when you are contributing to the greater good”.

Hardiman does not have a maritime or technological background. He began his career as a journalist and moved into radio, as a DJ on KFM and a director at 2OceansVibe, an online radio station. He always wanted to be more entrepreneurial and completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration at the GSB in 2009. He says, “going back to study was a seminal moment for me, I knew I wanted to create something, to do more”.

“The GSB is very close to my heart – without it I wouldn’t have had the ability to put a team together, to run a business or to make this happen. The classes and group work gave me the necessary skills, grounding and confidence to flee the nest of a safe job and become an entrepreneur.”

The WasteShark was inspired by the Disney Pixar character WALL-E, a robot left to clean up earth after humans have gone to live on other planets. Hardiman says he loved WALL-E’s sense of dedication, his determination to do the jobs humans don’t want to do. He acknowledges that there is a lot of fear around AI and robotics potentially taking away employment. “Because the WasteShark is born in Africa, I am very aware of not wanting to take away anyone’s job. Actually, the ports we work in are not comfortable with autonomous vessels as these are heavily congested areas”. Each WasteShark provides employment as it requires a remote control operator. “We’ve specifically invested in intuitive design for the controls so that anyone without technological experience can operate it. The WasteShark is a drone but it’s designed for humans”.

In a TedxTalk, Hardiman quotes Jacques Cousteau, the famous marine explorer and conservationist, saying “people protect what they love”. What Hardiman may not know is that Cousteau also said, “when one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself”. This certainly describes Hardiman’s remarkable journey.

* Written by Bradley Greef

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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