5th Annual Water Challenge Winner Boosts Hurricane Protection By Planting Storm-Resistant Trees

March 25, 2015

Wetland Resources, LLC wins $10,500 in funding at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week

NEW ORLEANS, LA (Mar. 24, 2015) – The 5th Annual Water Challenge took place this Monday, March 23rd at The Chicory during New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. A collaborative initiative between Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, and The Idea Village, the daylong event showcased entrepreneurial solutions to Louisiana’s water crisis and culminated in a $10,000 business pitch competition.

“Propeller did a great job in attracting a broader audience to help solve our region’s water challenges,” said Ella Delio, director of environmental and regional initiatives at the Greater New Orleans Foundation.  “What we learned at the Water Challenge is that it’s going to take all of us— businesses, nonprofits, policymakers and artists—to tackle our water issues innovatively and effectively.”

The morning session opened with a crowd-sourced civic design competition. Three artists pitched their ideas for a public art installation to engage New Orleanians around the challenges the city faces living with water. “Turning” by Michel Varisco was selected by an audience vote, winning $25,000 in project funding, provided by Arts Council New Orleans, to install the project design on the new Lafitte Greenway. “Turning” will include a trio of interactive cylinders incorporating sound, mosaic renderings of the Mississippi River, and electro-luminescent panels.

In the afternoon, speakers and panelists including Ella Delio, Councilmember Latoya Cantrell, Steve Cochran, director for Environmental Defense Fund’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration project, and presenters from the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, the Restore Council, and other key agencies discussed opportunities for entrepreneurs in the coastal and urban water landscape to drive change to pressing water issues like coastal erosion, wetland loss, urban flooding, and subsidence.

For the culminating event, 5 finalists who participated in Propeller’s accelerator programs, coached by Lead Mentor Mike Eckert, former CEO of The Weather Channel, took the stage to pitch high potential entrepreneurial solutions for wetland and marshland restoration, storm protection, and rain harvesting.

Winner Wetland Resources, LLC took home $10,000, provided by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, for their idea to create sustainable, long-lasting storm protection through the large-scale planting of hurricane-resistant cypress forests. Wetland Resources’ compelling pitch also earned them the Audience Favorite Award of $500, determined by an audience text-in vote.

The solution is the product of twenty years of research by Wetland Resources co-founders Drs. Gary Shaffer and Demetra Kandalepas.

Wetland Resources aims for statewide impact, with plans to influence Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan to incorporate swamp restoration and the planting of cypress swamps around every municipality in southeast Louisiana.

The result will be hurricane protection for all neighborhoods in coastal Louisiana, benefitting insurance companies, creating jobs through massive plantings, and increasing safety for people, plants, and animals over the course of the trees’ 1,000-year lifespan.

Entrepreneurs interested in participating in next year’s Water Challenge Peer Mentorship cohort, kicking off in Fall 2015, should contact Ginny Hanusik at ghanusik@gopropeller.org.