Students from the Master’s programme Bio-Inspired Innovation at Utrecht University have made it to the finals of the international Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. Their design offers a solution to the increasing damage Kenyan tea farmers suffer from more frequent and longer periods of night frost. In total, over 60 teams from 16 countries entered the Challenge. The eight finalist teams will receive assistance in developing their design further, and in bringing their innovation to market. The winning team will receive the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize®.
In this years’ Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, the teams had to create a nature-inspired innovation to address a problem arising from global climate change. The team from Utrecht University designed an automated system triggered by temperature changes that provides a cover to tea plants. Their design draws inspiration from the biological mechanisms of two plants that grow in the mountain areas of Kenya. By using local and sustainable products, such as bamboo, sugar cane, and bees wax, the design also involves the local community.
Greatest learning experience so far
Their participation in the challenge is a completely extracurricular activity, but definitely their greatest learning experience so far, say finalists Franco Grosso Giordano and Emma Luitjens. In March, a finalist place was no way in sight. They had been exploring potential solutions for several climate change problems since November 2017, but their attempts were all dead-ends. However, the team persisted with discipline and hard work, and they finally achieved a breakthrough when Franco heard about the Kenyan tea farmers’ problems from a friend.