Spiders, Butterfly Wings Inspire New Solutions for Urban Ag, Renewables
Innovators continue to look to nature to create new solutions to tackle everything from water scarcity and depletion to climate change.
An international team based in New York City has developed a prototype product that mimics the way living systems capture, store and distribute water, which could be deployed to help meet growing demand for sustainable, local food production. Designed by NexLoop, the prototype has been awarded the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation Ray of Hope Prize in the 2017 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, an international design competition and accelerator program that crowdsources nature-inspired climate change solutions for issues such as food systems, water management and alternative energy.
Dubbed AquaWeb, the product aims to help urban food producers collect, filter, store and distribute atmospheric moisture with a modular, all-in-one water sourcing and management system. Instead of drawing on groundwater, AquaWeb harnesses rain and fog and uses passive strategies to distribute water so that urban farms, including greenhouses, indoor vertical farms and container farms can save energy and become more resilient to disturbances.
Natural systems inspired each design element of NexLoop’s solution: It borrows heavily from the examples of cribellate orb weaver spider webs that collect fog from the air, drought-tolerant plants such as the crystalline ice plant that stores water and mycorrhizal fungi such as the Jersey cow mushroom which distributes water. The team also looked to the dwarf honey bee’s hexagonal nest structure for AquaWeb’s efficient and modular design.