Riding the Wave of Innovation: Highlights from the #OceanHack4EU Hackathon

From June 3-7, 2024, the #OceanHack4EU hackathon made a splash in the tech and marine communities, bringing together bright minds ready to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing our oceans. 
The #OceanHack4EU online hackathon program was organized by Mercator Ocean International, an implementer of the EU Copernicus Marine Service, on behalf of the European Commission and carried out by Garage48. With unique projects and insights from participating teams, the hackathon showcased the potential of collaborative innovation to address critical environmental challenges. Altogether, more than 150 participants from 23 countries in Europe and 8 countries from Africa signed up for the hackathon program. We also had participants from Canada, the United States, and Australia, making it a truly international and diverse gathering of ocean enthusiasts from all around the globe.

The #OceanHack4EU hackathon was designed with a clear mission: to harness the power of technology and data to create impactful solutions for marine conservation and sustainable ocean use.

Throwback to the OceanHack4EU marine data hackathon

The #OceanHack4EU hackathon has concluded, leaving behind a wave of innovative ideas and inspiring stories from passionate teams dedicated to marine conservation. This online event, which ran from June 3-7, brought together individuals from diverse backgrounds to develop data-driven solutions for the health and sustainability of our oceans. With unique projects and insights from participating teams, the hackathon showcased the potential of collaborative innovation to address critical environmental challenges.

While the ocean plays a crucial role in the lives of many communities and offers numerous opportunities, it faces threats from climate change and increasing pressures stemming from human activities. These factors affect the health and resilience of marine environments and biodiversity. It's time to act. That's why we launched #OceanHack4EU, a hackathon to find data-driven solutions to these challenges.

Organized in partnership with Copernicus Marine Service, EMODnet and EUMETSAT, #OceanHack4EU provided participants with access to extensive marine data, enabling them to craft innovative and impactful solutions. The hackathon aimed to harness the power of data and technology to tackle pressing marine issues, from pollution detection to wildlife protection.

Innovative ideas from #OceanHack4EU and insights from participating teams

The jury deliberation results were something Garage48 hasn’t seen in a while—The Blue Team and the sailoR—sailing responsibly—both snagged first place in the #OceanHack4EU hackathon. Both teams won a unique opportunity to attend the Marine User Days in Lisbon this November 2024!

The Blue Team focused on creating the application that would allow seamless monitoring of the seagliders. Currently, the software available for seaglider monitoring is owned by the manufacturers, and it is unsuitable for simultaneously piloting a fleet of gliders. In addition, continuous piloting of gliders is a delicate operation that requires a certain amount of expertise. Blue Team’s solution was an interface based on the Digital Twin Ocean. The main innovation of the interface was to compare the glider data with the data from the satellite observation. The application consisted of the following key components:
- Digital Atlas (database of ocean science, geography)

-Navigation Module to manage a fleet of seaglider (user can visualize the location of the glider and monitor the data)
-Interactive digital twin from inside the ocean (providing a centralized and simplified view from inside the ocean)

The team was proud of their achievement in developing a base DTO from scratch, with strong links to Copernicus and EMODnet, all within a week. It was a growing experience for them, and they valued meeting new participants. The team will continue looking for industry partners to support them in further developing the application.

"It was a well-organized hackathon, and they managed to keep it interesting and engaging. I'm very happy with the end result! We managed to pull out a base DTO from scratch, with a quite original idea, in just a week, with strong links to Copernicus and EMODnet and without knowing each other at the start! No other team had this combination of features, so our team can be proud of ourselves. For me, it has been a growing experience, and I am glad I could meet new participants!"  said Paul-Henri, the team lead of the Blue Team.

Team members of The Blue Team: 
  • Paul-Henri Decamp

  • Giorgio Santinelli

  • Josh Quinn

The sailoR - Sailing Responsibly team joined the hackathon driven by personal experiences and identified challenges from sailing in the Pacific Ocean. The team promotes sustainable and environmentally friendly sailing practices. Their platform focuses on the following areas

-   Responsible Navigation: They encourage sailors to navigate waters responsibly to minimize their environmental footprint.

-    Sustainability Initiatives: They provide guidelines for making boats more sustainable, likely involving steps to reduce pollution and energy consumption.

-   Conservation Projects: The community is encouraged to participate in conservation projects, which help to protect marine ecosystems.

-   Education on Marine Challenges: A place to learn about the key challenges facing our oceans, such as the decline of important species like Posidonia Oceanica (a vital seagrass in the Mediterranean).

-   Anchoring Guidelines: Providing information on responsible anchorage spots and advising sailors to avoid areas with fragile ecosystems like seagrass and corals to prevent damage.

-   Community Engagement: The initiative aims to create a community of responsible sailors committed to protecting marine environments.

 Currently, they are searching for additional funding and a suitable acceleration program to develop their idea further. Despite initial difficulties due to different backgrounds, time zones, and communication channels, the team grew closer and more effective as the week progressed.

The screenshot of the Responsible Sailors Application

"It was tough initially as we did not know each other, had different backgrounds, and were in different time zones. But throughout the week, we grew more and more together as a team!" Tabea, the team lead of the hackathon shared.

Team members: 

  • Tabea Nafz

  • Mohan Kumar Das

  • Juliette Lasserre

  • Jacopo Torrisi

  • Ewa Dominiak

The hackathon team AI4 Early Detection of Environment Threats focuses on leveraging artificial intelligence to identify and mitigate environmental hazards early on. Their project aims to create tools that can detect environmental threats, such as pollution or natural disasters, at an early stage to enable timely responses. This initiative is part of a broader effort to harness technology for environmental conservation and sustainability. The team joined because the hackathon topics aligned with their ongoing work in satellite remote sensing analysis to monitor planetary threats. Their original idea was to monitor contaminants in coastal waters using Sentinel-2 satellite data and AI-based techniques. They successfully produced significant outputs and showcased them on a WASDI platform created specifically for their proposal by one of their team members. While uncertain about future support, they hope to develop their prototype into a product for authorities and decision-makers. They were pleased with the teamwork and progress made during the hackathon and would recommend participation to others. "We were very happy about the work done during the week, the progress, and the result."

Snapshot of the AI4 Early Detection of Environment Threats application in action- detecting the areas where anomalies and pollution have been detected

This team will receive support to integrate their project into the European Digital Twin Ocean.

Team members:

  • Silvia Liberata Ullo

  • Francesca Razzano

  • Pietro Di Stasio

  • Francesco Mauro

  • Cristiano Nattero

Looking Ahead

The #OceanHack4EU hackathon demonstrated the power of collaboration and innovation in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing our oceans. The diverse range of ideas and enthusiasm of the participants highlighted the potential for data-driven solutions to significantly impact marine conservation.

As we move forward, the connections made, and the prototypes developed during the hackathon will hopefully evolve into fully realized projects that can contribute to the sustainability and health of our oceans. The passion and dedication of all participants and partners have set a strong foundation for future initiatives.

Stay tuned for more updates on the progress of these innovative projects and the impact they will have on our oceans!

Rewatch the finals http://youtube.com/live/k5hci71mlf0 

Thanks to all participants, partners and jury.

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