Dutch students win European Space Main Prize


know that coral reefs are dying off all over the world, but can we also prevent it? With that question, a team of Delft students started working during a hackathon in July. Lesser than six months later, their small company Reef Support is now winning the top prize in a European competition for space technology.

โ€œ Totally unexpected,โ€ says co-founder Yohan Runhaar (20). โ€œThe competition was huge, with 220 entries and finally thirteen nominees from different countries. We are really overjoyed.โ€

The startup combines satellite data with other datasets to monitor and predict coral reefs health. Reefs are already being watched from space, but that only gives an idea of the situation at that time.

โ€œ We can use an algorithm to predict how health will develop and when early intervention is required,โ€ says Runhaar. This can be done, for example, by halting tourism or by maintaining pollution more actively. โ€œIt‘s a kind of warning system for local authorities.โ€

The system still needs to be tested in practice, after the last few months the prototype was built from a Delft student room. But according to the jury, the idea is promising. Reef Support uses the prize money of 10,000 euros to expand the team and test the system with the help of partners. The company wants to set up pilots in the North Sea, the Caribbean Netherlands and Indonesia.

That Runhaar and his team did not get the news at a festive gala, but through a live stream feels familiar to him. โ€œOur whole company is set up in coronatijd, we do nothing but video meatings.โ€ Though it’s a big deal that part of the team lives together in the dorm. โ€œThat makes cheering together a little more fun.โ€

Previously, DeccEit made this special about the danger of dying coral. Below you dive into it: