Oban firm wins RSPB innovation award

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CuanTec, a blue biotechnology company based in Dunbeg, has won the Innovation Award at the RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards.

A project set up to support great yellow bumblebees on Tiree was also highly commended in the community Initiative section.

The awards were made during a special presentation dinner last Thursday (November 22) with co-sponsor Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), as a celebration of the passionate and dedicated people fighting to save Scotland’s wildlife and our unique and special places.

CuanTec is a Scottish start-up with a circular economy, zero waste solution to food waste and plastic pollution. They extract the natural biopolymer chitin from inedible bits of scampi, and turn it into compostable, anti-microbial food packaging that makes food last longer, and provides an additional 48 hours of shelf life for fresh salmon.

A third of the food in the western world is wasted, and 10 per cent of the waste occurs between farm and store. Fresh seafood is particularly prone to spoilage and the industry has been working hard to achieve a shelf-life extension of 48 hours, effectively doubling the time that salmon steaks can be displayed in a supermarket.

Dr Cait Murray-Green, CEO of CuanTec, said: ‘We are delighted and proud that CuanTec’s unique solution to food waste and plastic pollution has been chosen by the RSPB. Our environment is plagued by plastic that is damaging to bird and animal life and now the world has awakened to the need for solutions. CuanTec’s new approach will provide an alternative that is environmentally supportive and also reduces food waste.’

The Tiree project was highly commended in the Community Initiative section of the awards.

The project highlights the importance of crofting for biodiversity.
Great yellow bumblebees are one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees and are only found on flower-rich habitats in areas such as the machair of the Scottish islands and around the north coast.

The Tiree project encourages local volunteers to carry out surveys for the bees, as well as planting new areas of suitable forage plants in gardens and the wider countryside. The project is currently producing a range of very positive outcomes.

Tiree Ranger Stephanie Cope, said: ‘This project has engaged successfully with all age-groups in our community to share the story of the great yellow bumblebee. Project actions to conserve this iconic species have inspired a sense of pride in our island, along with a desire to show stewardship towards Tiree’s machair landscape and the threatened wildlife it supports.

With guidance from project leader Janet Bowler, our community has come together to safeguard their natural heritage.’

Kate Humble, TV presenter, writer and naturalist, hosted the Nature of Scotland Awards at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh, where 11 people and projects received beautiful trophies designed by Bryony Knox and sponsored by Turcan Connell.

The full list of winners are :

· Food & Farming Award (sponsored by The James Hutton Institute): Common Farm

· Business Award: Barratts provides new homes for people and wildlife in Aberdeen

· Innovation Award (sponsored by Balfour Beatty): CuanTec

· SNH Youth & Education Award (sponsored by Scottish Natural Heritage): Reviving Rossie – Awakening a secret wood

· Community Initiative Award (sponsored by GreenPower): Ninewells Community Garden: therapeutic gardening for all

· RSPB Young Nature Champion Award (sponsored by ScottishPower): Xander Johnston and Kathleen McMillan

· Nature Tourism Award (sponsored by Scottish Water): The Argaty Red Kite Project

· Political Advocate of the Year: Dr Tom Dargie

· Sustainable Development Award (sponsored by The Ardmore): European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre Scientific Research Programme

Sir John Lister-Kaye OBE was recognised with the lifetime achievement award for his work as a naturalist, conservationist, author, and educator.

Kate Humble said: ‘I’m thrilled to have hosted the Nature of Scotland Awards 2018 where I had the opportunity to meet and thank the conservation heroes doing so much to protect Scotland’s precious natural heritage.

‘The dedication and hard work of individuals is crucial in the battle to protect and preserve Scotland’s natural environment for generations to come and I’m pleased to celebrate the people and projects offering nature a home.’

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: ‘Congratulations to all of this year’s award winners. It is inspiring to see the range of people dedicated to protecting wildlife and preserving Scotland’s unique natural environment. Everyone should be incredibly proud of the work they have done and the achievements they have made. We hope the celebration of this work will encourage an even greater number to take action to protect wildlife and give nature a home in Scotland.’

Mike Cantlay, Scottish Natural Heritage Chairman, said: ‘Scottish Natural Heritage is proud to co-sponsor the Nature of Scotland Awards and to celebrate the inspiring people and projects working hard across Scotland to safeguard our wonderful natural environment. These fantastic conservation champions play a vital role in helping more people enjoy and benefit from nature and ensuring that our natural heritage is protected and improved in the future, so many congratulations to all.’