Category: Education


Research Residency Wrap-Up: Sneha Solanki

Sneha Solanki is an alumnus of our research residency programme. She is from the A to Z Unit, a “culinary research facility with a mission to map, investigate and interact with food systems and ecologies.” During her time at Green Lab, Sneha worked on her MICRO_FOOD project through which she is building a library of micro-organisms. Sneha believes that micro-organisms need to be acknowledged for their hard work which often goes uncredited in our food systems. Sneha developed extensive diagrams and maps of the library, focussing around the themes of Infrastructure, Interchange and Exchange. In her preliminary research, Sneha adopted a multi-disciplinary approach and spoke to experts in each one of her 3 grand themes.

  • Exchange – Sneha collaborated with Kate Rich from Feral Trade (an art project/grocery business experiment). “Kate offered thoughts on workable and sustainable economic methods and models whilst also discussing scale. A project of this nature doesn’t offer the usual economic ethos of ‘scale’ or ‘scaling-up’ but does offer one where scale moves in a horizontal or a ‘network’ format.”
  • Interchange – Sneha spoke with participatory artist and consultant Alexia Mellor about the design of the library. Conversations included working towards a travelling library which could reach the “commons”, a DIWO approach (‘do it with others’) and how library might translate into a workshop setting.
  • Infrastructure – Sneha worked with Dr. Sarah Jayne Boulton, a Biomedical Sciences Researcher from the University of Newcastle with an interest in stress pathways and energy generation in cells. Together, they discusses food safety procedures – especially in terms of fermentation which “can be seen as a process of ‘spoiloing’ and stressed the accountability of maintaining, storing and distributing micro-organisms and microbial food/beverage items.”

Over the course of her residency, Sneha also visited BrewLab and learned how to sequence microbial DNA to generate precise for the library knowledge about which micro-organisms are present in samples.

In the meantime, Sneha spent a lot of her time at the Lab fermenting Egyptian Kombucha using hibiscus tea and experimenting with long term storage of yogurt cultures.

Sneha also benefitted from conversations with fellow Green Lab residents Pilar Bolumburu and Zoë Powell from Materiom. Sneha writes, “We had a ‘library’ to ‘library’ conversation including looking at the concept of a library, interfacing elements digitally, tool hacking to make infrastructure more accessible and less wasteful, and we also spoke about future ‘library’ to ‘library’ collaborations.”

We look forward to more updates from Sneha as her MICRO_FOOD library continues to expand! You can find out more about her work here.

Sneha plans on returning to Green Lab in Autumn 2019 to lead a workshop. Please drop us a line at grow@greenlab.org to register your interest.

 

 

How to mitigate agriculture’s contribution to climate change?

https://www.farminguk.com/images/News/48918_1.jpg

Image: www.farminguk.com

Our friends at the Green Alliance think tank just produced a new report that caught our attention: Cutting the climate impact of land use. It got us thinking on how we can mitigate the agricultural sector’s contribution to climate change.

Green Alliance highlighted how urgent transformation is in this sector: “action must be taken now to reduce emissions and lay the foundations for the longer term transformation required.” The report also looks at land use as an opportunity area: “in the often overlooked land use sector, the UK now has an unprecedented chance to set a clear course and accelerate the pace of change.”

Here are some (amongst many) of the interesting approaches to change agricultural practice proposed in the report:

  • Afforestation: Green Alliance estimates that we need to be planting at least 70,000 hectares of new woodland per year (that’s almost twice the area of Sheffield).
  • Diet: The trend towards healthier diets needs to be accelerated, reducing red meat and dairy consumption by at least 30 per cent by 2030.
  • Sequestering carbon: This can be done by focussing on agroforestry and the improvement of salt marshes, woodlands, peatlands and wetlands. Using more wood in construction, also provides long term storage for carbon sequestered in trees.
  • Bioenergy crops: Crops such as Miscanthus and short rotation coppice willow are low-cost and low-maintenance and can be used to make bioenergy.
  • Biochar: Similar to charcoal, biochar is formed by thermal decomposition in a limited oxygen environment. It can store carbon in the soil for extended periods while improving soil fertility and quality.
  • Manure management changes: Innovative techniques such as treating manure using anaerobic digestion can be effective.
  • Improving soil management: Measures include the controlled use of nitrogen fertilisers to match inputs to field conditions more closely; increased use of organic residues, such as livestock manures and digestate from the processing of food wastes and crops; and more cultivation of legumes, which fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce the need for fertilisers.”

And (if you’re not convinced already): “If we get it right, there are many benefits beyond reducing emissions. Many of the measures to decarbonise land use will also contribute to greater soil protection, improved water and soil quality, flood mitigation, biodiversity and recreational benefits, and they will support a more productive and resilient food system and greater societal wellbeing. UK farmers and land managers will be central agents in cutting emissions from land use and will also benefit from low carbon practices. But policy needs to support them through this transition, providing the incentives to innovate and adopt new measures, and ensuring that best practice is supported by consumers and supply chains.”

A good read. Find it here.

 

 

Open source robot arm to extrude organics – Research resident Andreea Bunica

Open source robot arm to extrude organics
 
Andreea began her research residency here at the Lab in March and is using the opportunity to research across the disciplines of biology, robotics and responsive growing in relation to her background in architecture. Her broader area of focus is how to successfully print growing bio matter in gel mediums – and to achieve this she has begun to prototype a hobby robot arm that can be optimised to extrude organics.

Prototyping a modified robot arm

Andreea is working towards creating her own fully open-source, affordable tool kit for a robot arm that extrudes organics, with the hope that it will be more affordable and accessible than current options. This will allow a wider and more diverse audience to engage with robotic fabrication.

To achieve this she is currently using the Fab Lab at Green Lab to study existing robotic systems, design and protoype 3D printing files and laser cut files. By studying the existing Dobot desk arm that we have at the lab she is redesigning the robot frame and firmware code to do the following:

  • Incorporate a syringe organics extruder
  • Provide stability and accuracy through low cost fabricated PLA parts and lasercut pieces
  • Incorporate an Android app-controlled robot functionality

We have documented the process of Andreea’s first iteration of her prototype robot hobby arm to extrude organics on our wiki – where you can follow a step by step guide of the project to date.

You can also follow her progress throughout the residency on her website

Green Lab Wiki

Kombucha Leather – Research Resident Riina Oun

Kombucha leather

Riina is a designer and maker of hand-crafted leather gloves and a material researcher currently pursuing her Masters of Arts in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins UAL. During her research residency at Green Lab Riina is searching for a biological leather substitute suitable to use for making gloves. She is currently researching kombucha SCOBY (the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), grown on the surface of the beverage, with the goal of developing it into the ultimate vegan leather substitute material.

Coming from a design background with a focus on leather accessories, Riina is looking for new alternative material options that retain the positive qualities leather offers. Kombucha leather is relevant as a potential alternative to animal leather, whilst avoiding man-made oil-based fake “vegan” leather. Riina would like to contribute into developing a leather replacement material that is sustainable with minimal impact to the environment and that can be easily reproduced without creating non-biological waste.

kombucha leather samples

During her residency, Riina´s research includes fermenting and growing the kombucha SCOBY in large sizes over several weeks, testing various finishes of processing the SCOBY into a visually appealing, soft and durable material and prototyping “leather” fashion accessories to test their wearability.

www.riinao.com

Algae Cutlery – Research Resident Midushi Kochhar

Agar samples

Midushi is a product designer and material researcher who is pursuing her master’s degree in Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins UAL. For her 12 week research residency here at the lab she is using her material driven approach to concoct sustainably derived materials from the sea and wasteful everyday resources and translate them into commercial products.

For her initial research she has been using Agar- Agar which is derived from red algae. Agar has been used in the medical industry for a number of years due to its nutrient content but more recently designers are starting to explore it’s potential as a bioplastic. With the growing concern over single use plastic, Midushi aims to tackle this issue, focusing in on single-use cutlery she is exploring how to make biodegradable tableware to help eradicate this pollution phenomena.

She is currently exploring various recipes and composite options to make the most durable material – mixing agar- agar with various available food waste such as egg shell powder, pea pods and beetroot peels. She has also added ingredients including red chili powder, turmeric, charcoal and gram flour to understand the various properties these substances can provide.

By developing mundane but functional objects such as disposable cutlery, Midushi hopes to bring about acceptance and popularity towards a new aesthetic thus opening up the possibilities of producing more biodegradable short life products that won’t last forever and pollute our natural world.

FIND OUT MORE

MYCHROME PROJECT – research resident Valentina Dipietro

mycelium samples

Valentina Dipietro is a material designer and researcher about to complete her MA in Textiles at the Royal College of Art. She is currently undertaking a 12 week research residency here at the lab, utilising our developing material lab to experiment with mycelium materials with an outcome to make them viable for products and interiors.

Her project, Mychrome (from mycelium and khrôma –atos, “colour” in ancient greek), is based on material circularity and usage of waste to supply a need for a radically sustainable range of materials for design which are compostable, but at the same time, desirable.

mycelium textures

Mycelium is the vegetative part of the mushroom and it can grow on different varieties of agricultural waste. The material fully colonises the waste in the span of two weeks from inoculation while in the right environmental conditions and it presents advantageous physical properties, as it is fire resistant as well as temperature and sound insulating. At the end of its life span it can be re-introduced in the environment as an agricultural fertilizer.

During her residency she will experiment on how to incorporate colour and waste at incubation level, experimenting with different varieties of fungi (Pleurotus Ostreatus, Ganoderma Lucidum or Fomes Fomentarius), as well as multiple waste substrates like straw, wood chips, sawdust and hemp. Combining them with natural pigments obtained from wine waste, she aims to create textural materials and, at the same time, experiment with a range of natural finishes in the realms of natural resins, agar and wax.

Find out more

Green Lab x Materiom collaboration

Green Lab X Materiom

Materiom have taken residence in the lab for our Green Lab X Materiom collaboration. Zoe Powell and Pilar Bolumburu are both material researchers and workshop facilitators from Materiom and they will be spending the next few months working with us and helping to develop our Material Lab and Library.

Materiom:

‘Materiom is an open platform for materials experimentation and development for a circular economy. We believe this multidisciplinary and collaborative approach is the key to unlocking a 21st century materials economy that is regenerative by design.
Working at the intersection of design, material science and ecology, the Materiom platform and its community are using open source data and technology to unlock a circular materials economy that is regenerative by design.’

Material Lab:

The material lab is going to be a bookable space for material lab members to use. The space is ideal for material research and development that can’t be conducted at home but that doesn’t need a bio lab. With stainless steel work benches and equipment ranging from what you would find in your kitchen to more advanced lab equipment the space is ideal for messy work.

During our collaboration Materiom will also help us develop a material library, showcasing future sustainable materials alongside more traditional examples. The library will be a space for students, researchers, buyers and industry to come and explore alternative possibilities. Located next to the lab, the library will also connect viewers with researchers making these alternative options, creating a unique space for collaboration.

At our next #openhouse evening on Thursday 28th February we will be launching our material lab and running some material workshops – come along to meet with the Material Lab team and Materiom.

GET TICKETS

FARM491 AgriTech Bootcamp at Green Lab

FARM491

Green Lab is excited to be hosting FARM491’s Inspiring AgriTech Innovation Boot camp on 8th & 9th April.

The two day bootcamp is for AgriFood and AgriTech startups looking to take the next steps to define their business model and become investor ready. Farm491 specialises in helping turn technology ideas into viable and scalable businesses.

The workshops provide an opportunity for startups to understand the next steps they need to take ‘in order to increase their technology readiness and progress their business. The two days are very practical, entailing one-to-one business support, as well as group discussions, zoning in on the value proposition, and helping every attendee get investor ready.’

What is Farm491?

‘Farm491 is an AgriTech specialist taking technology ideas and helping them turn into viable and scalable businesses, using our extensive knowledge of agriculture, our association with the Royal Agriculture University, and our network of partners. Farm491 received grant funding from the European Regional Development Fund to run free two-day workshops, where we engage with each entrepreneur, and welcome continued engagement after the bootcamp to ensure the companies receive enough support.’

APPLY NOW

Download PDF for more info

or email grow@greenlab.org

OD&M Future Algae presentations

CSM MAID students

On Wednesday 28th November we saw the MA Industrial Design students from Central Saint Martins, working on the OD&M Future Algae brief, present there projects exploring the immense potential algae holds.

For the the final crit all the students from across the course came together to present the projects they’d spent the last 6 weeks developing – with 3 briefs (future algae being one of them) we saw varied starting points all focusing on open design and manufacturing, circular economies and systems design.

For the algae brief the students all started at the same point – exploring the future potential of algae (both macro & micro) but all groups research took them down different paths, focusing on different narratives to explore this material through.

Group 1.

RHODON - luxury toiletries

With growing frustration of throw away, single use plastics Group 1. decided to focus on this sector. With the hope that consumer change will continue to grow and we will see less demand for single use products the group identified a few industries where they thought the convenience single use offers will continue to be necessary. Focusing on the service sector and hotels in particular they created a narrative to celebrate algae’s ability to replace plastic as a bio plastic alternative, allowing single use products to not have a lasting negative impact on the environment.

consumer system

Creating a company that operates directly in the hotel supply chain they created a closed loop system of creating luxurious algae toiletries for hotel rooms – There kit RHODON houses single use products for those traveling light.

Identifying independent hotel chains on the south coast they sought to develop a system from – raw material – to product – to end of life care. By choosing a controlled environment such as hotels they can remain in control of there products right through to disposing of them.

The system

System diagram

The group understood the need to still create luxury products and try to separate the idea of a sustainable alternative offering a lower aesthetic – they need to continue there material work to create prototypes as desirable as there rendered samples but the project holds potential and there ability to identify a niche narrative and environment to work within allowed them to focus there project.

Group 2.

alje website

With fast fashion an ever growing problem and the enjoyment we gain from consuming not decreasing Group 2. chose to focus on the single use properties of algae, celebrating it’s ability to biodegrade and return to the environment. They created a project that played with consumers enjoyment of buying – creating short term swimwear brand ALJE.

Swimwear is typically made from plastic based fibers, to ensure product durability whilst in the water and being exposed to the sun – however with trends changing as fast as the seasons they found that many holiday goers like to purchase new beach attire for each holiday.

alje website

Rather than building a product to last for as long as possible, ALJE has a purposefully short shelf life – allowing  consumers to  update there swimwear regularly, guilt free.

THE SYSTEM

Using the website you can pick your item, enter your size and choose your finish. This is then sent to a local 3D Knitting machine placed at a makerspace. You can then collect your order in person or have it sent to you.

Once ALJE has reached it’s end of life span it can be returned to the company to be recycled or there website will help you to locate a suitable composting location near to you.

The ALJE System

Whilst this project remains at the speculative stage and the group need significant development of algae based samples and to conduct exploration with manufacturing and distribution techniques – they managed to identify the possibilities that open design platforms could offer the fashion industry whilst tapping into the idea of fab cities and a more connected maker movement.

Group 3.

Tote bag instructions

Through the future algae brief Group 3. became very aware of how little they had known about algae previously and were shocked to learn the potential it holds for a more sustainable future. Identifying the fact that the public probably knew as little as them they set about to create a communication project that would educate and inspire others to take part in the algae conversation.

Creating an exploration kit to communicate and engage the public the group visualised this material becoming a DIY phenomenon, creating an accessible kit that contained at home experiments and learning with algae. As well as the kit, the group mocked up a website and pop up shop where the public could actively engage with the material. Creating an open source platform the idea would be that the curious could share there experiments, create further work, encourage others to explore and ultimately create a large scale constantly updating recipe book.

Online recipes

With algae found around the world the online platform also allows those further afield to explore recipes without needing to purchase the kit.

This is algae exploration kit

The group successfully identified the need for alternative sustainable options to become part of the conversation – as the more we know about alternatives the more likely we are to demand them. By creating a kit that is lo-fi and accessible it allows for maximum engagement. The success of this project would be visible by physically putting it to the test and engaging the public.

All projects had a certain level of speculation in order create future narratives, although all are not to far from possibility – with algae exploration advancing constantly and more people working within this sector we are hoping to see the students take these projects further and potentially develop them into a reality.

This project took place over 6 weeks, the students responded to a brief that challenged them to work with alternative ‘new’ materials and to understand the areas of industry that algae can infiltrate – the Green Lab team can offer similar projects & tailored briefs – if you are interested in a brief lead by the team for your organisation, school, college or university please get in contact at:

grow@greenlab.org

 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE OD&M PROJECT

GrowUp Community Farms join the lab

We are super excited to have GrowUp Community farms join the lab, installing their aquaponics installations, growing in the space and creating living biomes.

Their aims are to engage, educate and inspire communities about sustainable food production and help people make informed decisions about the food they buy and eat. By running aquaponics workshops and training courses in the lab they will help to raise the awareness of growing within the city and encourage more people to get involved with where there food comes from.

GrowUp workshop

“We are thrilled to be joining the Green Lab community which will be hosting our aquaponic workshops and training courses. Their exceptional facilities make them a perfect partner for us.” (Sam Cox, Co-founder)

GrowUp produce

They are currently offering evening GrowUp tours – an event for the curious to learn more about aquaponics and Practical Aquaponics training: How to build your own system – a 1 day practical course.

Find out more & sign up for an event