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Environmental entrepreneur

Grenfell PhD student’s companies help fight microplastics pollution

By Pamela Gill

To mark Earth Day on April 22, the Gazette is featuring a suite of sustainability-themed stories this week. Keep an eye out for more from April 19–21.

The hits keep on coming for Grenfell PhD candidate Abdul-Latif Alhassan and his work to make the world a better place.

Most recently, the candidate in the transdisciplinary sustainability doctoral program has been listed as one of 12 finallists in the ENACTUS Canada Student Entrepreneur National Competition.

Last month, he learned he was in the top five for the Mel Woodford Cup.

And during BDC Small Business Week 2022, Mr. Alhassan was named the Navigate Student Entrepreneur of the Year.

Multiple businesses

The recognition stems from his entrepreneurial and environmental work through his companies, AbbaTek Group Inc. and JCI Consultancy.

From left, Abdul-Latif Alhassan and a colleague work at the Navigate Centre in Corner Brook. They are seated at a round table with red chairs next to a railing and staircase. People are sitting in other chairs in the far background.
From left, Abdul-Latif Alhassan and a colleague work at the Navigate Centre in Corner Brook.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

AbbaTek Group is a social enterprise that supports Newfoundland and Labrador companies who focus on aquatic ecosystems and microplastic remediation.

The company provides the environmental tools, data analytics and processes that companies need to help make meaningful impacts within the province.

JCI Consultancy offers quality environmental consulting services to private and public sector stakeholders that share Mr. Alhassan’s vision for developing sustainable, agile and viable communities.

“We use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help fight microplastics pollution by reducing uncertainty in microplastics research – freeing researcher times and helping them protect human health and the environment through informed policy making/influencing,” he said.

“My work is driven by my desire to make positive, meaningful and lasting impacts . . . for everyone who lives here now and in the future.” — Abdul-Latif Alhassan

In addition, last year he was one of only 30 winners from across Canada in the Ocean Startup Challenge.

The competition provides financial support from a combined $640,000 funding pot for development capital, mentorship and training opportunities for budding Canadian Bluetooth businesses.

“Current water quality testing protocols do not include microplastics and there is a huge opportunity to make a case for policy and regulation changes,” he said, adding he is grateful for the acknowledgment of the work he and his co-founders do. “My work is driven by my desire to make positive, meaningful and lasting impacts, not just for the planet, but also for everyone who lives here now and in the future.”

An illustration that shows the planet Earth with leaves around the edges of the image and the words "Saturday, April 22 Earth Day."

‘One of the strongest’

Dr. Lakshman Galagedara, Mr. Alhassan’s supervisor, says this work is important on a global scale.

“Microplastics are a crucial environmental issue that needs to be addressed, and their main product, MPConnect, is targeting to support environmental sustainability through detection of microplastic contamination,” he said, adding that Mr. Alhassan’s work raises the profile of Grenfell Campus. “His research, scholarship and community-involvement projects, which are shared through channels like journals, social media and volunteer work, demonstrate that Abdul-Latif has one of the strongest academic and leadership records.”

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