Biology

Biomimicry Global Design Challenge down to final eight

Biomimicry Global Design Chall...
The eight finalists will present their projects at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas (October 5-7)
The eight finalists will present their projects at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas (October 5-7)
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The BioNurse is designed to help restore degraded soils
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The BioNurse is designed to help restore degraded soils
BioX's Jube catches insects for human consumption
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BioX's Jube catches insects for human consumption
The Balcony Cultivator has been designed for spatially-challenged urban farmers
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The Balcony Cultivator has been designed for spatially-challenged urban farmers
The Hexagro groundless growing system that allows people to grow food in limited spaces
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The Hexagro groundless growing system that allows people to grow food in limited spaces
The Mangrove Still has been developed to offer cheaper desalination
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The Mangrove Still has been developed to offer cheaper desalination
The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System depends on a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish
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The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System depends on a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish
HIPS is an app for independent food production inspired by animal collectives
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HIPS is an app for independent food production inspired by animal collectives
The Living Filtration System was inspired by earthworms
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The Living Filtration System was inspired by earthworms
The eight finalists will present their projects at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas (October 5-7)
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The eight finalists will present their projects at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas (October 5-7)
View gallery - 9 images

How to improve food systems by looking to nature for design solutions – this was the brief given to entrants in the Biomimicry Institute’s Global Design Challenge, which announced its finalists this week. The selection committee has drawn up a list of eight teams, each of which has been invited to prototype its solution in an accelerator program that will award US$100,000 to the winner.

The Biomimicry Institute engaged 60 judges, including biologists, business leaders, venture capitalists, and agriculture experts to examine nearly 2,000 entries from more than 70 countries and select eight finalists. Key food and agriculture issues like waste, packaging, agricultural pest management, food distribution, and energy use were the focus of this year's Challenge.

"Entrepreneurs don’t have the same R&D budgets as big companies, but those who are patient enough to understand and employ nature’s designs have a distinct advantage: they are leveraging millions of years of evolution," says Beth Rattner, executive director of the Biomimicry Institute. "That’s what we’re seeing with these amazing submissions. They aren’t just good ideas; they’re proof points that radically sustainable products are possible."

In no particular order, the final eight projects are:

  • Hexagonal shapes in nature was the inspiration for Italy's Team Hexagro, which was shortlisted for its so-called groundless growing system that allows people to grow food in limited spaces. The modular system is made of biodegradable, recycled materials and the team says that one tree could produce 342 lettuce plants from a 2 sq m (21.5 sq ft) plot, compared to 80 sq m in traditional agriculture. It features an automatic irrigation system and a smartphone app is in the works.
  • The Hexagro groundless growing system that allows people to grow food in limited spaces
    The Hexagro groundless growing system that allows people to grow food in limited spaces

  • A team from South Africa looked to animal collectives such as a flock of birds or a school of fish for inspiration when designing the Holonic Integrated Produce Swarm app. The peer-to-peer networking app is aimed at small-scale, intensive food production systems and could help create local and regional "swarms" and produce hubs, facilitating distribution and avoiding waste.
  • Team Kandu's entry to the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge - Holonic Integrated Produce Swarm

  • The Team Penthouse Protozoa (Oregon, US) looked to the earthworm’s digestive system and the human small intestine as a biomimetic reference for a drainage system that keeps nutrients in the soil rather than losing them in runoff.
  • The Living Filtration System was inspired by earthworms
    The Living Filtration System was inspired by earthworms

  • Noting that hardy nurse plants can help recover degraded soils and set the stage for new plants to grow, Chile's BioNurse aims to restore soil by improving conditions for seedlings and exposing them to a mix of nutrients, microbiology and hygroscopic components.
  • The BioNurse is designed to help restore degraded soils
    The BioNurse is designed to help restore degraded soils

  • From Thailand, the BioX team believes that edible insects are the food of the future and developed an insect-capturing chamber called Jube.
  • BioX's Jube catches insects for human consumption
    BioX's Jube catches insects for human consumption

  • The Balcony Cultivator from the Technical University in Zvolen, Slovakia, has been designed for spatially-challenged urban farmers. Moisture is reportedly drawn up from the bottom of the device and condenses in a dome to the top, before being channeled to the roots of the resident plants. Inspiration came from lizards living in arid areas that can collect water and moisture with their skin.
  • The Balcony Cultivator has been designed for spatially-challenged urban farmers
    The Balcony Cultivator has been designed for spatially-challenged urban farmers

  • Team Planet, also from Italy, looked at mangroves and salt marshes to find a solution for land degradation and water scarcity in coastal areas. Its Mangrove Still is a desalinating solar unit that can produce fresh water for irrigation.
  • The Mangrove Still has been developed to offer cheaper desalination
    The Mangrove Still has been developed to offer cheaper desalination

  • The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System depends on the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish. The solar-powered farming solution sees fish waste feeding the plants and the plants cleaning the water for the fish.
  • The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System depends on a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish
    The Oasis Aquaponic Food Production System depends on a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish

The finalists will present their projects at SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas (October 5-7), pitching the marketability of their ideas and participating in an awards event. The teams will then spend the next eight months prototyping and testing, before competing for the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson "Ray of Hope" Prize in 2016.
Source: Biomimicry Institute

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