Kāi Tahu teen honoured for developing green alternative to fishing industry bins

By Jessica Tyson

Havelock High School student Sam Wixon, of Kāi Tahu, has taken home two awards at the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) Awards for his company Te Kete ō Tangaroa.

He won the Rangatahi Entrepreneur Award and the HSBC Environmental Sustainability Award for developing an alternative to polystyrene bins used in the fisheries industry in a bid to reduce pollution.  

“I felt proud really, because it's two years of work by myself on this business. So it was really rewarding to receive that and it’s a huge thing to get two on the night. Normally people only get one, so I was really really happy with that outcome.”

Sam’s product is printed with compostable plastic material. He’s also drawn on the traditional practices and mātauranga of his tūpuna to develop the solution.

“My tūpuna were mutton birders and the way they packed mutton birds to prepare them for trading was in bull kelp bags.”

He says the bags have a naturally insulating structure.

“I drew inspiration from the past innovations that we had down in the South Island and energised those and brought them into the modern world using modern technology,” he says.

Te Kete ō Tangaroa / Source: Sam Wixon.

YES awards

Sam received his awards at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington last Thursday at an awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of New Zealand’s most outstanding young entrepreneurs.

Despite the disruptions faced because of Covid-19 more than 4000 senior secondary students took part in YES this year, setting up over 1000 companies between them. Only 21 of those companies made it to the national final, including Te Kete ō Tangaroa.

Over the past year, the students created and ran their own businesses from conception through to production, marketing and sales. The one-year programme offers students an authentic learning experience that prepares them for life after schooling by teaching entrepreneurship and connecting them with the business community.

Sam says he also developed Te Kete ō Tangaroa through his involvement in the Young Enterprise Scheme programme and the Kaitiakitanga Project led by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).

“Their focus is working with high school students to develop really cool innovative businesses and so, through that programme, I’ve been able to have a large number of mentors, he says.

“I had a mentor from NZTE who connected me up with a lot of people. I connected with 3D printing experts and people within the fisheries industry.”

Photo source: YES

The future for Te Kete ō Tangaroa

He says he is still looking at prototyping and developing the product.

“So it’s not yet fully ready to be on the market and, if I were to do that, there’s some big hurdles in terms of manufacturing that would have to be sorted through," he says.

“3D printing is a relatively new manufacturing method and so there aren’t many big plans  in New Zealand and around the world that can mass-produce things in 3D printing and the structure itself can only really be manufactured in that way.”

Next year Sam plans to go to university while looking at further options for his business, “how I’m going to prioritise my time and looking at whether I focus on study or on this.”