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Syndicate content Stories by Richard James MacCowan on Medium
Stories by Richard James MacCowan on Medium
Updated: 11 hours 9 min ago

Our blog — biomimicry innovation lab — Food and Agriculture

Sun, 2019/10/20 - 14:53
Food , Agriculture and Biomimicry

“We have to change how we produce and consume food, not just for environmental reasons, but because this is an existential issue for humans.” — Janet Ranganathan

The race to the bottom is happening in the food industry, and our agriculture system is at breaking point. We are destroying the topsoil, the lifeblood of our crops and eating more red meat than was ever thought possible.

We are part of nature, but apart from it. This has led us to overconsume on the land. Can nature-inspired solutions solve this? No. Not on their own, they cannot.

We need to look at new forms of agriculture that can regenerate the soil. Think of how many insects and fungus coexist. They need each other and thrive for the benefit of the bigger system. We can also study these social insects for the creation of more transparent and resilient supply chains. We shouldn’t optimise the system but look at distributed networks for solutions in the future.

This approach can also be applied to where in the system we need to innovate? Is it the product? The making? Or even the business model itself?

Where does the technology allow us to create low-technology solutions? Remember we waste approximately 30% of the food that we produce.

These are not just questions to ponder, but points we are investigating for our Future Food System project.

This sums it up beautifully, ‘how meals are produced and delivered will be as key to solving climate change as the shift away from fossil fuels’, by The Ellen McArthur Foundation.

Originally published at

Biomimicry and the circular economy

Sat, 2019/10/19 - 02:41

“Biomimetics can support the path towards the circular economy by offering both conceptual and practical strategies, including ways of creating information-rich materials that transcend the current digital/physical boundaries and advanced sustainable technologies for manufacture.” — Veronika Kapsali

When we think of systems in the natural world, we read about how nature recycles all materials. Unfortunately, this is not true as we shouldn’t see enormous amounts of surplus on coal, oil, turf and even limestone, should we? Through geological mechanisms, over millions (even billions) of years, everything will be recycled, but not in our timeframe.

Like biological and ecological systems, the circular economy is not perfect. This industrial ecological system will never achieve absolute zero, but that is missing the point. That said, the move to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover can allow us to tap into the multi-functional systems found in the natural world.

Biological systems and their properties are tradeoffs from competing functions, so no single parameter is “optimal”. But understanding how these competing desires get resolved in a particular environment can provide a way forward. Besides, evolution does not “optimise” even if there is only one goal; evolution finds solutions that are better than existing ones, not “the best”.

Circular economy and biomimicry are better than the existing ones. Let’s look to nature to find new ways to minimise the use of material and energy. Let’s find methods to keep information and resources in the system as long as possible, and finally, if we have to recover them downstream, we ensure that the materials have right chemistry that it can be broken down into non-toxic elements.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised or are working on ideas for biomimicry and the circular economy, please contact us now.