A scheme to build rooftop community gardens will pit a team of Griffith undergrads against some of the world’s brightest later this month.

Travel may be off the table, but that isn’t stopping students Alex Blackborough (Bachelor of Environmental Science/Bachelor of Laws), Tanner Noakes (Bachelor of Commerce), Shanayah Sharif (Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of International Business) and Cheyenne Apap (Bachelor of Psychological Science/Bachelor of Business) from presenting their concept GardenShare to a global audience in the Hult Prize Regional Finals via virtual means. They will represent the university after winning the Griffith Hult Prize On Campus competition.

L to R: Tanner Noakes, Cheyene Apap, Shanayah Sharif and Alex Blackborough.

Griffith Hult Prize campus director Riley Thiedecke said the Hult Prize was one of the world’s most acclaimed entrepreneurship programs.

“Hult Prize provides a platform for students to rethink business in a way that is not only profit driven but also socially minded,” Riley said.

“Students have the opportunity to test their professional skills in a risk-free environment and gain access to a global network of like-minded individuals and business leaders.”

Team captain Alex said this year’s challenge theme was centred on businesses with a positive environmental impact, which inspired them to create GardenShare to implement edible rooftop community gardens atop apartment buildings.

“Shanayah brought up the idea that apartment blocks have a lot of wasted space as she had lived in China for a number of years and had seen the less than appealing appearance of many apartment blocks,” Alex said.

“We already had the idea of community gardens and combined the two to give us rooftop community food gardens.

“Our goal is that when you look at Google Maps satellite you won’t be able to tell where the building are.”

Alex said the team was passionate about protecting the environment and believed their model — renting individual plots to apartment residents — was fiscally beneficial and would reduce heating costs in the buildings by up to 30%, increase the average lease length and property value.

“I believe the most effective solutions to climate change are those that appeal to the economy.”

“The opportunity to develop a business idea with (a focus on sustainability) and potentially implement it is very exciting,” Alex said.

Bare urban rooftops are an untapped slices of real estate.

The gardens would also help reduce carbon emissions, provide safe food sources and even foster habitats for endangered native bee species.

Instead of traveling to Toronto, Canada, for the competition, the team is now submitting their pitch by video, which Alex said was disappointing but had advantages.

“It removes the element of nerves associated with presenting live and provides a unique opportunity to engage with film and media students to deliver a potentially more dynamic, informative and engaging pitch,” he said.

The team is aiming for green rooftops.

Riley said he was “extremely proud” of the GardenShare team for persevering and continuing with their venture despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The current global climate has put a lot of uncertainty around this year’s competition; our team has had no choice but to pivot and be agile in these times.”

The winners will be announced on April 27 and will progress into the Start-up Accelerator Program, where they will spend six weeks being mentored while building a clear business and implementation model.