Canadian Packaging

Biomimicry Institute announces winners of the global Food System Challenge

A brilliant high school team from Glenforest Secondary School in Mississauga takes home first place in the Student Category with its new food system game-changing proposition.


July 5, 2016
by Canadian Packaging staff

Biomimicry or biomimetics is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems—and that is exactly what 86 teams from 18 countries did in trying to impress 50 judges in the second challenge issued by the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge revolving around food systems.

The goal was to reinvent humanity’s food system using blueprints from the living organisms in nature that surround us while focusing on key food and agriculture issues such as waste, packaging, agricultureal pest management, food distribution, energy use and more.

Teams were asked to:

  • Identify and solve a specific problem within the food system;
  • Intentionally emulate one or more mechanisms, processes, patterns, or systems found in nature;
  • Enhance the sustainability of the food system, whether from an environmental, social, or economic perspective—or ideally all three.

The winning Student entry from Glenforest Secondary School of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, it should be noted, finished ahead of many university teams. Their project is brilliant in concept and could one day be used to resolve the Earth’s food crunch.

Student Winners:

First Place: Glenforest Secondary School, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Subject: Stillæ

The team created Stillæ, a device to capture water in the air before it fully evaporates to use the water to irrigate crops anywhere and everywhere around the world.

Stillæ is covered in hexagonal-shaped solar panels which was inspired by bee honeycombs.
Inspiration: seeking organisms that can survive in water-scare environs, the team looked to the Socotra desert rose, lichen and fogstand beetle.

Second Place: Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan
Subject: Home Food Garbage Decomposer

The Home Food Garbage Decomposer is a device that aims to address the pollution and food safety issues associated with the way food waste is currently treated.
Inspiration: The team looked to cockroaches’ respiratory system, termites’ nest air circulation systems, and the structure of cocoons and honeycombs in order to create a highly efficient, aerobic decomposer for home use.

Third Place: Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City, Mexico
Subject: The EcoFruitainer

The EcoFruitainer is a bio-inspired, transportable container that not only keeps food fresh in sustainable ways, but enhances food access in rural or hard-to-reach areas.
Inspiration: The team looked to the cooling and storage functions of organisms such as the nephila clavipes spider, prairie dog, tree bark, and the reflective properties of the green birdwing butterfly.

Open Category – Winners (no order)

Team: Jacob Russo, New York City, NY, U.S.
Subject: Nexloop

Nexloop makes it possible for city-dwellers to capture, store, and distribute rainwater for a hydroponic growing system, right from their own windows. By retrofitting multistory residential building facades to harness rainwater for irrigation, the Nexloop team aims to increase small-scale, hyper-local urban food production that operates independently from the city water grid, and increases the visibility of food system processes.
Inspiration: This design uses water capturing innovations inspired by moss, the sacred locust, and the Brazilian wild petunia, the water storage innovations of the ice plant, and the water distribution innovations of the slimy spike-cap.

Team: UC San Diego, La Jolla, California, U.S.
Subject: ANSA (Autonomous Nutrient Supply Alternative)

Inspired by microbial communities, a team from UC San Diego have developed ANSA, a hydroponic growing system that effectively uses space, consumes less water, and eliminates the use of soil while maintaining nutrient quality and bringing healthy food closer to homes.
Inspiration: This design mimics cyanobacteria’s photosynthesizing inner membrane allowing growers to extract nutrients from compost through a series of filters where the nutrients are then used to feed their multi-layer, poly-culture hydroponic unit.

Team: Jose Hernández, Santiago, Chile
Subject: Slant

Slant is an app that aims to reduce food waste by creating a platform for users to influence each other’s decisions regarding the quality of food. Similarly to how foraging ants leave pheromone trails, a user can leave a mark within a range of intensity depending of the quality of the food source and how sustainably it was produced.
Inspiration: This app mimics the way ants communicate with each other both through one-on-one interactions and through pheromone trails that slightly alter the probability that another ant will act a certain way.

Team: MICA Social Design, Baltimore, MD, U.S.
Subject: GetFresh

Get Fresh develops micro-habitats for fresh foods at corner stores in Baltimore. First, Get Fresh will source excess produce from local farmers. Then, students in a culinary job training program will turn the ingredients into delicious, nutritious meals which will be sold in corner stores across Baltimore.
Inspiration: The team used human-centered design and biomimicry to analyze problems, find inspirations, and develop strategies. They looked to biological patterns and theories to find inspiration about how to successfully introduce a new food source, including how to increase demand for healthy food choices.

Team: Kristy Levings, Woodland, California, U.S.
Subject: Happy Soil

Happy Soil is a biomimetic soil replenishment innovation, designed to create a healthy soil microbiome, increase water retention, and lower labor hours for farmers. This product is a natural time-release, dissolvable application embedded with dried mycorrhizae (fungi) that suppresses nearly 100 percent of weeds while encouraging desired crop growth.
Inspiration: With this design, the team is leveraging nature’s ability to recycle everything, reward cooperation, and power itself on sunlight, while making soils – and, in turn, humans – happier.

Team: Giuliana Gheza, London, U.K.
Subject: Concept (non)Restaurant – CnR

Concept (non)Restaurant (CnR) is a meta-project that aims to shift attitudes about food waste and our disposable culture using natural models as inspiration. In this (non)restaurant, if customers eat or buy more than they need, there will be no food or resources left for the (non)restaurant to “survive.” If sustainable choices are made however, the restaurant will stay alive, demonstrating that personal choices have an impact on the larger community.
Inspiration: The team looked to nature to discover how living organisms collaborate in order to share resources equally, getting inspiration from how mycorrhizal fungi help exchange carbon, nutrients, and water between plants, among others. They also learned how living organisms change their behavior in the face of a challenge, like how whales and monkeys transmit culture through emulation.

Team: Paula Esguerra Perry, Bogota, Colombia
Subject: B-all

B-all is a sustainable, edible food packaging system, designed to protect food in the journey from producer to consumer. The team’s goal is to create a special coating, derived from kitchen produce, that can be easily applied to a spherical nutritious ball, which will preserve it intact until it reaches the consumer.
Inspiration: The team was inspired by the protective functions of beetles and certain fruits like the pittosporum undulatum to create the b-all with a special double peel coating, including a foam-like layer covered by an impermeable varnish-type layer.

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