Labasa Boy Wins $4000 as UQ

“I ended up winning this competition as I had a compelling problem of plastic pollution along beaches, which is common among countries in the Pacific such as Fiji.” 
17 Nov 2023 16:23
Labasa Boy Wins $4000 as UQ
Arishneel Sagar Narayan, student at University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia won ventures validate competition and earned $4,000 as an award on October 24, 2023

Arishneel Sagar Narayan is the first Fijian student at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia, to win ventures validates competition and earn AU$4000 as an award.

Ventures is a special division of the UQ that specialises in teaching the principles of entrepreneurship to its students.

The competition offers many programmes and hackathons of which validate is slightly advanced, as it consists of a 10-week market validation programme.

Students design a start-up and take it into the real world to analyse if the start-up is solving a problem that is painful enough to the target customer segment and adapting their business model and strategies to combat challenges and pivoting where the need arises.

“It consisted of workshops that taught us the core topics in managing our start-ups in today’s fast-paced business world and the last leg of the competition was pitching the finished start-up to a panel of judges to raise funding for the project, something like shark tank,” Mr Narayan said.

“I ended up winning this competition as I had a compelling problem of plastic pollution along beaches, which is common among countries in the Pacific such as Fiji.”

He designed a drone-based start-up that used a combination of land and aerial drones that communicated and coordinated using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and collect plastics to prevent them from getting into the ocean.



Mr Narayan, 23, of Labasa is a final year engineering student, majoring in chemical and bioengineering.

“I have had a strong background in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology since when I was in high school,” he said.

“I wanted to get into a profession that offers problem-solving within these areas. I attended Labasa College from 2015 to 2019 and at that time, the most popular programme for pure science students was medicine (MBBS) and even though I had my interest in helping people in this way. I believe that the country needed innovation in medical technology.”

After he received his National Toppers Scholarship (NTS) offered by the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS), he decided to study in Australia.

While he was initially studying chemical engineering, which in the context of Fiji, mainly applied to process engineering in large industrial factories such as Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) and Tuckers, he had the opportunity to study bioengineering as dual major, which consisted of both bioprocess and biomedical engineering aspects.


Future Plan 

“I soon realised through my courses and time as a research assistant at the Herston Biofabrication Institute, which specialised in producing medical devices, implants, and prosthetics for people, that my calling lied in medical technology design and innovationwhich has the potential of improving lives and healthcare,” he said.

“I have a six-year service bond with the Fiji Government, but I wish to defer this due to the following reason.”

He said engineering laws prevented a fresh graduate from offering professional engineering services on their own without first gaining up to five to six years of experience and a competency assessment by a regulatory body.

As such, even if he wanted to make advancements in medical technology in Fiji now, he will lack experience and adequate technical skills.

“As a result, if I begin my six-year service bond with the Fijian Gover nment immediately, I will only learn skills that are already present in the country and in the field of chemical engineering, changes occur very slowly due the large scale of these projects,” he said.

“Thus, my future plans consist of liaising with the Fiji Government to allow a deferral of my service bond in which time, I can train under a competent professional bioengineer overseas to gain the relevant skills to advance medical technology in Fiji.”

His parents, Ajay and Shaileshni Narayan, are high school principals in Labasa.

His younger brother Avishneel is studying data science in Melbourne on the same NTS scholarship by TSLS.

“As an alumnus of Labasa college, I thank my teachers at Labasa College and my parents for their faith and continued support,” he said.

“I thank the Fiji Government for sponsoring my education.”



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