A water management system for the future, brought to you by spiders, plants, bees, fungi, and our newest Ray of Hope Prize® winners.
When the members of Team NexLoop set out to design a water management system for urban food producers, they wanted to make it locally attuned, adaptable, and self-sufficient. With those design specs in mind, they searched for the best examples of how to develop a resilient local water system and found them — in nature.
How best to capture freely available water from the atmosphere? The team, whose members include Jacob Russo, Anamarija Frankic, and C. Mike Lindsey, looked to how cribellate orb weaver spiders collect fog from the air with their webs. How to store this passively-collected water? The team found inspiration in how drought-tolerant plants like the crystalline ice plant retain water to survive in arid environments. How about distributing the water once collected? The team was inspired by how mycorrhizal fungi like the Jersey cow mushroom transport fluid between the root systems of neighboring plants. Finally, how best to design the system as a whole? The team studied the dwarf honey bee’s hexagonal nest structure as a model for efficient and modular design.
This innovation, called the AquaWeb, is the winner of the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize®, an award to help budding biomimetic entrepreneurs bring their radically sustainable, nature-inspired solutions to market.
The living organisms that inspired Aquaweb. Top left: the cribellate orb weaver spider; top right: the crystalline ice plant; bottom right: dwarf honey bees; bottom left: Jersey cow mushrooms.
With the $100,000 prize in hand, this team is poised to bring this all-in-one water sourcing and management system to a city near you, and just in time. By 2050, 9 billion people will live on our planet, and 70% of them will live in cities, creating a demand for local food production solutions that are locally attuned, responsive, adaptive, and safe. AquaWeb harnesses freely available rain and fog and uses passive strategies to distribute this water so that urban farms, including greenhouses, indoor vertical farms, and container farms, can save energy and become more resilient to disturbances and disasters.
For the second year in a row, Ray C. Anderson Foundation Executive Director John Lanier presented the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize on the Bioneers mainstage, in front of 3,000 attendees. It was the culmination of a year’s hard work for the six global teams who entered the Biomimicry Accelerator in October 2016, with strong biomimicry design concepts for how to improve our food system, but no clear way to bring them to market. Over the past year, they worked with biomimicry and business mentors, created prototypes, tested their designs, and participated in an in-person Biomimicry Bootcamp.
After pitching to a panel of judges in both a closed-door session and a public Biomimicry Pitch Event and Technology Showcase, the six teams took the stage at Bioneers on Saturday, October 21, for the grand prize announcement. In addition to Team NexLoop’s Aquaweb, the trustees of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation also awarded a $20,000 second place prize to Team Windchill from the University of Calgary, Canada, who created an electricity-free refrigeration system inspired by how animals regulate temperature. The $15,000 third place prize went to Team Evolution’s Solutions from the University of California, San Diego, who created a food waste nutrient recycling and supply system inspired by bacteria that helps hydroponic farmers grow food more efficiently and sustainably.
Read about last year’s Ray of Hope Prize winners and Biomimicry Accelerator teams and how they’re forging ahead with their nature-inspired innovations.
Do you have a nature-inspired design that you want to make a reality? Do you want to learn how to practice biomimicry and help to develop solutions to our climate crisis? The 2017–18 round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, focusing on finding solutions to climate change, is now open to students and professionals looking to make a difference.
Learn more and register at challenge.biomimicry.org.