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Renee Farris headshot

5 Companies That Will Make the World Better in 2016


Earlier this year, 50 social good startups met at the Kairos Global Summit in Los Angeles. Here’s what some of the companies are up to now, and how they’re going to change the world in 2016.

1. A drone that saves elephants and zebras

In a time when hundreds or thousands of species are going extinct every year, it’s more important now than ever to be able to monitor wildlife so we can lend a helping hand when possible.

One startup, Dutch UAS, has created a drone that monitors land. It can measure wildlife such as rhinos and elephants, livestock such as cows and goats, and vegetation such as crops and trees. Let’s look at one case of how this works. In the past, people have tried to monitor animals by foot, car, plane or helicopter. For example, you might have two people in a helicopter counting the number of elephants and rhinos below.

The problem is that’s inefficient, expensive, time intensive and often unsafe. Instead, Dutch UAS is able to fly drones over land, create a map of the area, and have the drone automatically detect and count various types of animals. For example, it can look at the ground below and automatically detect that there are 20 impalas, one giraffe, 20 wildebeest and five zebras.

The company then analyzes the data on the number of specific animals per land segment, and it’s easy to compare animal populations from year-to-year and see the trends. Landowners can then quickly intervene when they see a potential problem.


2. A mobile app that is a doctor

“700 million people in the developing world can't live a productive life because they don't have glasses. Glasses have become affordable, but caregivers can't provide prescriptions fast enough,” says the Eye Check website. “We exist because we are not comfortable with this fact. We exist because we can help close the gap between available services and desperate need using affordable imaging equipment in creative ways.”

It’s difficult for people living in rural areas to get to the doctor. That’s why Eye Check is bring doctors to people via their cell phone. Here's the way it works. First, the smartphone app is used to determine if the person needs glasses or if there are any other serious eye conditions. Then the phone’s camera and flash are used to take a detailed photo of the eye. This provides optometrists a general idea of what prescription is needed. The optometrists are then able to fine tune and give the patient a prescription or refer them to a doctor. Eye Check is already testing the app in India and is scheduled to launch in six months.

3. Grubs that eat grub

The U.S. produces 34 million tons of food waste. That food waste goes to landfills and releases greenhouse gases which damage the environment. Enter Grubbly Farms. It collects the organic waste from food processors, restaurant suppliers and farms. It turns the waste into slush that it feeds to a massive bin of black soldier fly larvae who find the slush delicious.

The larvae are hearty eaters and continuously dine on restaurant scraps, bakery waste and food processing waste. They don’t even stop to sleep. If an adult human ate as much as a larvae, he would eat 45 chickens per day … including the bones.

As the larvae chow down, they excrete a nutrient rich fertilizer that gardeners and farmers love to use. Once the dinner feast ends, the larvae which are full of protein, fat and calcium, are fed live or dehydrated to poultry or reptiles. The larvae are also sometimes processed into a feed ingredient for fish or poultry farms.

4. A robot that helps children with disabilities

It’s hard for autistic children to look at someone and understand what emotion that person is feeling. For example, a child with autism may look at a smiling parent and not know that a smile means the parent is happy.

That’s one reason the startup Leka invented an interactive robot that socially engages children with developmental disorders. The bot plays sounds and music, shows emotions and speaks, moves, and lights up and vibrates. All of these sensory features are used to encourage children to interact with parents and caregivers.

To help a child understand that a parent is happy, the robot, Moti, turns on a green light. This simple stimuli creates a communication bridge between the child and parent.

The company hopes to also use Moti to collect data for researchers and doctors in hopes that they will be able to detect patterns in the communication.

One “child in a hundred is living at the margin of our world. It’s time we let them in,” says the cofounder and CEO, Ladislas de Toldi.

5. A printer that builds living tissue from human cells

The BioBot 1 is a desktop printer that prints living tissues any size or shape you want. First you identify what body part you need. Then you put a three dimensional digital image of that part into the bioprinting software. Insert bioink, made from biological materials, into the printer cartridge. Then watch your living tissue print out layer by layer.

The ultimate goal is to create body parts that can be transplanted into a human. This would create a huge benefit for people who are on the transplant waiting list.

The founders of BioBots gave a discounted BioBot 1 printer to Dr. Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, a transplant specialist and head of the 3-D Bioprinting Facility at the University of Minnesota. She is now creating a 3-D-printed esophagus and trachea to sew into an animal and test.

The BioBots website admits there are still many questions to answer, “There are still plenty of problems to solve. What kind of biocompatible material will be tough enough to hold sutures? Will it support cell growth? What’s the best way to seed cells on the piece? How thick can a printed part be?”

Despite the challenge, Dr. Panoskaltsis-Mortari predicts it will just be a few years before 3-D vessels, tubes, skin, and other relatively simple body parts are printed and implanted in humans.


*All photos came from the websites for each company.

Renee Farris headshotRenee Farris

Renee is a social impact strategist who works with companies to help them focus on key social and environmental opportunities. She loves connecting with people so feel free to contact her at renee.a.farris@gmail.com.

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