Biomimicry Challenge: Hack Like Mother Nature, Win $100k

Hot on the heels of the 2015 Hackaday prize, with its theme of “Build stuff that matters”, comes another opportunity for hackers to make a difference. But you’ve got to think like Mother Nature for the 2016 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge.

wind chillThe aim of this challenge is to transform the global food system using sustainable approaches that emulate natural process. Entries must address a problem somewhere in the food supply chain, a term that could apply to anything from soil modification to crop optimization to harvest and storage technologies. Indeed, the 2015 winner in the Student category was for a passive refrigeration system to preserve food in undeveloped areas. It’s a clever two-stage system that uses an evaporative cooling loop inspired by the way an elephant’s ears cool the giant beast, and by use of a wind-capturing funnel that mimics how animals as diverse as termites and meerkats cool their nests.

In addition to the Student category, the challenge has an Open category for teams of any composition. Up to 10 teams will be selected from the Open category to proceed to the Accelerator phase, where they’ll receive support for a six to nine month development of their design into a marketable product. The winner will be awarded the $100,000USD Ray of Hope prize, endowed by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

We’d love to see someone from the Hackaday community take home the 2016 prize, and there are plenty of 2015 Hackaday Prize entries that may be eligible. The deadline for submissions is 11 May 2016, so get a team together and get to work.

We Have A Problem: Food Supply

Hackaday, we have a problem. Supplying fresh, healthy food to the world’s population is a huge challenge. And if we do nothing, it will only get more difficult. Rising water prices and (eventually) rising fuel prices will make growing and transporting food more costly. Let’s leverage our collective skill and experience to chip away at this problem. We hope this will get you thinking toward your entry for the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

There are big science breakthroughs that have taken us this far. For instance, The Green Revolution developed wheat with stronger stalks to support the weight of higher kernel yields. If you’re equipped to undertake that kind of bio-hacking we’d love to see it. But the majority of us can still work on ideas to make a difference and (heartwarming moment approaching…) feed the world.

As with the shower feedback loop and electricity monitoring installments of We Have a Problem, I’ll start you off with an uber-simple idea. It’s up to you to think further and wider to get at solutions that are worth more exploration.

Can Technology Give Me a Green Thumb?

warm-dirt-greenhouse-controller-e1332183513993We see it all the time around here, people are building projects to monitor and control their own gardening projects. The one shown here couldn’t be simpler, it’s a hot-box which lets your gardening continue through the winter. It uses heat tape to keep the soil warm, and features a motorized lid which actuates to regulate humidity and temperature.

This concept is a good one. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and it tackles the easy part of automation (how hot is it? how wet is it?). But does it have the potential to make an impact on the source of your household’s food? Maybe the concept needs to be applied to community garden areas so that you can achieve a larger yield.


robot-weed-pickerPerhaps robots are an answer to a different problem. This little bot, already entered in the 2015 Hackaday Prize, is an experiment with automatic weed elimination versus the use of herbicides.

But it does get us thinking. One of the problems you need to overcome when trying to achieve wide adoption of local food supply is that not everyone enjoys the work that goes into it. Do you have an idea of how your mad robot skills can do the work for us?

buckybotStepping back onto the side-track of changes to industrial farming, let’s take a look at one of the way-out-there-ideas from last year. A huge amount of water usage is in food production. What if we turned entire farms into greenhouses in order to capture and reuse water that is normally lost into an all-to-dry atmosphere? Domes my friends, domes. A swarm of 3D printing robots given locomotion and unleashed to print out translucent covers over the fields on the kilometer-scale. Hey, doesn’t hurt to dream (and do some back of the envelope calculations to gauge how wild that idea actually is).

Your Turn

That should be enough to get the conversation started. Toss around some ideas here in the comments, but don’t let the brainstorm stop there. All it takes to enter the Hackaday Prize is an idea. Write it down as a project on and tag it “2015HackadayPrize” to get your entry started.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: