The Ice Box Challenge shows effectiveness of passive house design

September 3, 2021 by  
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The Ice Box Challenge was a visual representation of the effectiveness of  passive house  design elements, presented as a collaborative effort from iPHA, Glasgow City Council, Passive House Institute, Edinburgh Napier University, Passivhaus Trust and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre. The display consisted of two small houses, placed side-by-side in Glasgow, Scotland’s city square. One house was built by standard Scottish building code, while the other implemented four of five passive house design elements. Each structure was filled with the same amount of ice, which was measured at the end of an established period. Related: Explore the Saltbox Passive House’s sweet sustainable design The results were undeniable, with the ice melting completely in the standard house within 11 days. Viewers could see the ice void days before the final measurements. In contrast, the passive house still had two large blocks of ice. In the end, the passive house still had 121kg of the original 917 kg of ice placed two weeks prior, even with unseasonably warm weather.  This demonstration highlights the effectiveness of energy-saving  passive design  elements since no active cooling systems were allowed. Passive design incorporates five standard elements to significantly reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling. This not only reduces the use of limited environmental resources but saves money for the homeowner too.  For this challenge, the homes looked nearly identical from the outside, but the passive house relied on window glazing, insulation levels, airtightness and reduced thermal bridges for keeping out the summer heat and maintaining a cool and comfortable interior. Due to the nature of the competition, the passive house didn’t include the fifth element of passive design — a ventilation system with heat recovery — which adds to the  energy efficiency  of the construction.  The passive home standard is becoming increasingly more common in projects developed by the Glasgow City Council and local housing associations. Michelle Mundie from the Housing Investment Group at Glasgow City Council says, “Housing associations in Glasgow are looking at this very closely and what it means to new build programmes. For tenants it means more comfortable homes with lower running costs.” + Ice Box Challenge Images via © Passivhaus Trust, Kirsten Priebe

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The Ice Box Challenge shows effectiveness of passive house design

XpreSole Panto waterproof boots are made from coffee grounds

July 28, 2021 by  
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Footwear is a major source of post-consumer waste . With around 7.8 billion people in the world, many of whom own multiple pairs of shoes, landfills are full of discarded, petroleum-based footwear. Another daily-use product, coffee, also contributes to environmental waste to the tune of around 25 billion kilograms annually. Scientists recognize that while coffee grounds seem harmless, when in the landfill they actually release methane gas, which has a greenhouse effect 28 times higher than carbon dioxide. With this in mind, sustainable shoe brand Ccilu has developed a line of waterproof boots, called XpreSole Panto, made with recycled coffee grounds and other eco-friendly materials. Called XpreSole Panto, the boots are available in high-top or low-top options made with upcycled coffee grounds collected from local coffee shops in Taiwan. The technology developed by the company results in a patented, high-tech footwear material that is used to make the certified vegan boots. The process minimizes coffee waste by diverting it from the waste stream, and it reduces carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Related: Repurposed coffee grounds provide sustainable clothing pigment alternative XpreSole materials On a broader scale, the innovation carries the potential to make a substantial impact, considering each pair recycles 15 cups’ worth of spent coffee, which is dehumidified and ground, then pelletized using the patented XpreSole technology. The material is then turned into fabric used in the lining and insole of the boots. Using injection molding technology, the pelletized coffee is also used in the shell and outsole. In all, around one-third of each shoe is made up of discarded coffee grounds. To round out the environmentally friendly theme, the company carefully selects the additional materials. For example, the insole incorporates Ortholite foam made from recycled rubber, and the laces are made from recycled plastic bottles. Stylish versatility The boots are produced with sustainability, durability and versatility in mind. The styles meet the needs of many uses, from camping to nights out on the town or days in the office. They are rain boots, so they are waterproof and highly dirt- and mud-resistant. The XpreSole Panto boots keep feet dry from the outside in, but the liner is also moisture-wicking and odor-resistant. These boots are also machine-washable, and the company reports they can “sustain in excess of 100 wash cycles.”  “Our business has been creating sustainable footwear for a decade, and in creating the XpreSole® Panto, we wanted to address a type of waste that’s frequently overlooked, but one that has a significant environmental impact,” said Wilson Hsu, president and CEO of Ccilu. “At the same time, we wanted to create a piece of footwear that’s eminently wearable, and suitable for any number of occasions — whether commuting across town, hitting a hiking trail, or as part of a smart-casual outfit for a night out. The XpreSole® Panto isn’t just a boot — it’s a commitment to reimagining how the industry produces footwear.” An award-winning rain boot Ccilu’s XpreSole Panto recently wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign and has already attracted attention for the innovative design. It was awarded Red Dot’s ‘Best of the Best’, iF Design’s Gold Award and A’Design’s Silver Award. The product also received an honor from the Taipei International Design Awards at the end of 2020. These accolades add to the total of 12 awards for the company’s products since 2017. With the Kickstarter complete, the XpreSole Panto will be available in four neutral color options for both high- and low-top models. They can be found online, in select retail stores or in Ccilu stores worldwide. Review of XpreSole Panto Boots The company offered to send a sample pair of boots for review. Sometimes, it’s unnerving to agree to write a review when I’m not sure how the product will work out. Especially when it comes to something personal like shoes. There was no reason to worry here. My order arrived in reasonable time, packaged in 100% recyclable materials. I had selected one of the two black high-top options. After opening the box, my first impression was that the shoes looked stylish. I can see wearing them with leggings, jeans or hiking pants. I instantly had visions of trudging through the mud to select a holiday tree or running the dogs when the wet days return. Equally though, I can see wearing them out for dinner in town or next to the campfire. The next test was in the fit. I have narrow feet with a high arch. When I slid my feet in, I was concerned. One foot felt too restrictive, and there didn’t seem to be enough support up the center. So I wore them around the house for a few minutes and quickly noticed a change. A friend stopped by, and I wore them outside to help load her car. We walked around the property quite a bit, and it wasn’t until after she left that I realized I still had the boots on. They honestly felt like that reliable favorite pair of shoes you don’t have to debate whether you can tolerate for the day. That’s the long way of saying the XpreSole Panto boots exceeded every expectation. They are form-fitting, yet breathable (it was a warm summer day). With a tall inner liner in addition to the rubber outer, they offer exceptional protection without compromising softness and flexibility. They also do their job as a rubber boot, completely repelling liquid even when standing directly in a bucket of water. Even after wearing them several times, they still look brand new with zero dirt or scuffs to mark my adventures thus far. I’ll sip my coffee to that! + XpreSole Images via Ccilu and Dawn Hammon/Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Ccilu. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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XpreSole Panto waterproof boots are made from coffee grounds

A redesign helps an Enel power plant transition away from coal

July 28, 2021 by  
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In a competition to create designs to update power plants in Italy, Frigerio Design Group takes the win with its forward-thinking and innovative approach. The Andrea Palladio power plant in Fusina (Venice) needs a facelift. More specifically, it needs a conversion away from fossil fuel dependence. In a contest titled, “New Energy Spaces,” the environmental transition presented by Frigerio Design Group outlined the solutions needed for Enel, the electricity and gas production company behind the competition, to meet its goals of transforming all of the coal-fired plants into sustainable facilities by an aggressive 2025 date. Related: Powerbarn is a bioenergy plant offering power to 84,000 families Named the “Resilience Lab Grid,” the project was selected by a committee made up of representatives from Enel, the University of Venice IUAV and the City and County of Venice. The winning design took top marks in the established categories of environmental and social sustainability, technological innovation, design and visual impact.  “While Venice celebrates its 1,600 years since its foundation, it is still looking toward its future,” said Luigi Brugnato, Mayor of Venice. Brugnato pointed out that “converting the Fusina plant from coal to an energy hub confirms that we are a cutting-edge territory in the challenge of energy transition and that Venice can attract investment and new jobs by focusing on sustainable technologies.”  The winning design also scored for the inclusion of areas that will be open to the public, catering to Enel’s desire to foster social and cultural development as well as education about sustainability and the environment. The architecture is aesthetically pleasing with a modern look in an otherwise aged industrial zone. To achieve this, designers took inspiration from the surrounding lagoon and countryside, merging water with plants to soften the transition from industrial to natural. “This competition is a tangible example of our vision for the future of energy, which needs to be planned out and realized in an open and shared manner,” explained Carlo Tamburi, President and CEO of Enel Italia. “With this project, the Fusina energy hub, which will expand its technology to facilitate energy transition, will become an area open to the local community, a space able to be in harmony with the landscape and be perfectly  integrated into the surrounding environment.”  + Frigerio Design Group Images via Frigerio Design Group

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A redesign helps an Enel power plant transition away from coal

Can Bumble Bee and Nestlé hook the world on fishless fish?

June 8, 2021 by  
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Can Bumble Bee and Nestlé hook the world on fishless fish? Elsa Wenzel Tue, 06/08/2021 – 02:12 Put down that beet-juice burger. The next big wave in plant-based protein is fake fish. Buoyed by the success of red-meat mimics from the likes of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, a growing number of companies is angling to capture their share of the early market for animal-free seafood. Large companies including Bumble Bee, Nestlé, Tyson, General Mills and Thai Union are making various plays, whether by investing in upstarts or flexing their research and development muscles to formulate new products. The startup space is buoyant with cash and targeting a blend of retail, direct-to-consumer and food service channels, playing with ingredients such as kelp, koji and mung beans. Plant-based and cultivated seafood companies raised $80 million in 2020, according to the nonprofit Good Food Institute (GFI), which counts 800 companies involved in the space. Overall, businesses creating all sorts of meat alternatives raised $3.1 billion last year, more than three times the level of 2019. Alternative meat, dairy and egg products make up more than half of that, at $2.1 billion. Plant-based seafood only accounts for 1 percent of alt-meat sales, compared with 60 percent for beef, poultry and pork analogs, according to data from GFI and retail insights firm SPINS. Yet GFI has positioned the market for fake fish to become bigger, or at least more diverse, than those for beef and poultry alternatives. The nonprofit has named the threatened collapse of fisheries and unmet demand for seafood alternatives as important factors. By 2030, it expects demand for seafood to be 30 percent higher than 2010 levels. Plus, the tens of thousands of edible creatures in the oceans offer a broader palette of flavors and textures to imitate compared with land mammals or fowl. This is not lab grown meat; we actually use ancient techniques to make modern foods. Plant-based seafoods are spawning in the freezers and aisles of mainstream stores. Gathered Foods’ Good Catch “tuna” is in a number of outlets, including Publix and Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s plans to stock alt-seafood, too. The pitch Acceptance of plant-based proteins has grown quickly in recent years as consumer sentiment has been shifting away from meat. Unlike the early days of tofu and tempeh, today’s alt-proteins are designed to please flexitarians and omnivores, not just to fill a gap for vegetarians or vegans. Plus, the touted sustainability benefits to deriving seafood-like ingredients from plants include reducing the reliance on open-sea fishing and fish farming, not to mention sidestepping the labor abuses found in seafood supply chains . Seafood stand-ins not only promise a low carbon footprint, but they also seek to serve people with dietary restrictions. For example, kelp-based “shrimp” is kosher and won’t trigger a life-threatening shellfish allergy. If the sourcing is done carefully, fake fish also should be devoid of the mercury and microplastics that can stem from ocean plastic pollution. Here in random order are several key companies making waves in alt-seafood: Nestlé Nestlé has the advantage of already employing 300 scientists, engineers and product developers spread across eight research and development centers. The food juggernaut’s alt-seafood explorations are being made by Nestlé Research in Switzerland and in Germany and the United States under the leadership of CEO Mark Schneider, a vocal proponent of the sustainability potential of plant-based nutrition. Nestlé often describes plant-based food as part of its DNA; in 1886 founder Julius Maggi developed soups with a “meaty,” plant-based seasoning. The company’s Coffeemate non-dairy creamer, born in 1961, is complemented today by non-dairy almond, oat, coconut, soy and rice milk. Nestlé’s Garden Gourmet veggie burgers are well established in supermarkets, as are its vegetable-based sausages, chicken nuggets and lunch meats. The company’s sales of vegetarian and plant-based items grew by more than $222 million in 2019 and leaped by 40 percent in the first half of 2020. “In general, there is a lot of dynamism and innovation in this sector, and that is a good thing,” said Torsten Pohl, head of the Nestlé Product Technology Center in Singen, Germany, via email. He credited Nestlé’s scale, size and proprietary technologies with accelerating the development of plant-based, jarred tuna in a matter of nine months, leading to the release of the six-ingredient, pea-protein-centered “fish” last year in Switzerland. Nestlé scientists, chefs and technologists prototyped and tested the new products in retail outlets, producing early commercial batches in its R&D centers. Defining success for me is when I can sit down in a restaurant and order our product off the menu. “We want to offer people the best plant-based meat alternatives in terms of taste, texture, flavor and nutrition,” Pohl said. “To complement our internal capabilities, we also strategically collaborate with researchers, suppliers, startups and various other innovation partners.” Nestlé cites the sustainability benefits of reducing overfishing and protecting ocean biodiversity as motivators of these projects. Following its tuna substitute, the company plans to release imitation shellfish and other fish next. New Wave Foods Shellfish are the specialty of New Wave Foods, which Tyson Ventures, chicken giant Tyson’s VC arm,  backed in 2019 . The startup completed a Series A $18 million funding round late last year. The San Francisco-based startup is making mungbean and seaweed-based shrimp that’s supposed to have the “snap” and succulence of the real thing and can be dropped into any hot or cold shrimp recipe. “2021 is the year of the shrimp,” said Michelle Wolf, co-founder of New Wave Foods, which is doubling its staff of 15 people by the end of the year and moving its Connecticut R&D kitchen to New York. “And that’s what we’re really focused on is just blowing out our shrimp product over the next year and delivering that movement.” A main New Wave Foods ingredient is moisture-absorbent alginate, derived from brown kelp and used in biomedical applications including hydrogel for wounds. New Wave blends it with mungbeans. To recreate the colors and textures of shrimp, the team consulted with Brad Barnes, a certified master chef and director of consulting at the Culinary Institute of America. The product is kosher and doesn’t trigger problems for people who can’t eat soy or gluten either, according to New Wave. In March, the company inked a deal with Dot Foods, one of the nation’s largest food distributors, aimed toward rolling out New Wave-branded shrimp on the menus of foodservice institutions and restaurants, which make up the vast majority of the market for shrimp. Wolf believes the disruption of the pandemic has caused consumers to embrace plant-based foods partly as a way to address climate change on a personal level. To reach young adult flexitarians, college campus dining is a special target for New Wave, in addition to corporate dining and independent chains that have weathered COVID well. Market research in April by Fact.MR projected “shrimp” to be the most popular product in alternative seafood. “We saw a huge opportunity with shrimp because it is by and far the most consumed seafood in the United States, but it is also the poster child for a lot of issues in our seafood supply chain,” said Wolf, who moved to San Francisco from Pittsburgh following a master’s in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon, seeking to join a plant-based meat startup. Instead, she co-founded her own venture.  Depending on who’s counting, about half of shrimp is farmed, which in Southeast Asia has been wiping out coast-protecting mangrove trees. Shrimp is responsible for four times as many greenhouse gas emissions as the same amount of steak by weight, according to a study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2017. (It described the carbon footprint of a steak and shrimp cocktail dinner as equivalent to driving from Los Angeles to New York City.) In general, there is a lot of dynamism and innovation in this sector, and that is a good thing. Seaweed, on the other hand, which makes up New Wave’s shrimp-mimic, sequesters carbon and reduces ocean acidification. Wolf hopes that spurring demand for plant-derived shrimp will have upstream effects, such as boosting beneficial ocean-based agriculture while reducing demand for farmed shrimp. “Defining success for me … it’s when I can sit down in a restaurant — which is going to be sooner rather than later — and order our product off the menu and text my family back in Pittsburgh and say, ‘Hey, you know, go to so-and-so and get the shrimp,'” she said. “That’s going to be the moment for me where like, wow, we’ve really done something here.” Prime Roots The mission-driven, direct-to-consumer brand Prime Roots is seeking to open the hearts and minds of consumers while helping to reduce the market for animal-based products. “Bacon” was an early offering, and “lobster” ravioli is its latest. Its fermented “superprotein” koji is the key ingredient.  Koji mold , the fungus Aspergillus oryzae, has been core to savory  foods for millennia throughout Asia. Koji can be tinkered with fairly easily to replicate the texture of muscle fibers of various creatures. Additional ingredients are added to bump up nutrition and finetune the mouthfeel. From Prime Roots’ R&D kitchen in west Berkeley, California, the five-year-old company grows koji in a nutrient-rich broth in a process similar to brewing beer. “This is not lab-grown meat; we actually use ancient techniques to make modern foods,” said Kimberlie Le, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “I wouldn’t have even thought to look at koji as a source of protein if I hadn’t started to learn about fermentation when I was like 4 or 5 years old with my mom.” Her mother, Chi Le, is a well-known chef who appeared on the show MasterChef Vietnam. With a staff of 25, Prime Roots is small but Kimberlie Le believes its proprietary koji brewing can scale up fairly easily. Pound per pound of protein, its processes are far more resource-efficient than harvesting meat from animals, the company estimated. “We really hope that people will support that and see that there’s a better way of eating and making protein and that we’re fundamentally rethinking our system,” Le said. “We’re really excited to be able to be there for our community online and really get to go from farm to table, essentially, which is something that’s important, to connect people to their food and where it comes from.” Gathered Foods’ Good Catch Good Catch is becoming the most visible fish-free consumer brand in the frozen aisles, where its bags of shelf-stable “tuna” already appear. The company uses a “six-legume” blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans. In May, its maker, central Ohio-based Gathered Foods, released a line of $6 frozen fish sticks to be sold in Safeway and other supermarkets, following an April Series B funding round of $26.4 million. Good Catch is in 5,000 U.S. and Canadian stores, and its plant-based tuna salad is bound for 200 Whole Foods prepared food counters. The irreverent Gathered Foods co-founders, brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, have corporate roots at Whole Foods. The self-described “culinary ninjas” also launched the Wicked Healthy plant-based community, and Chad continues to lead plant-based developments as an executive at Tesco. Gathered Foods has attracted funding from celebrities Woody Harrelson and Paris Hilton, and early in 2020 pulled in an investment from General Mills’ venture branch, 301 Inc, an early backer of Impossible Foods. 301 Inc’s founder and managing director John Haugen told GreenBiz that seafood is “another compelling proposition that meets the needs of consumers today.” Among its other big-name supporters, Gathered Foods has a distribution partnership with tuna titan Bumble Bee.  Bumble Bee Founded in 1899, Bumble Bee claims 28 percent of the market for shelf-stable seafood including tuna, salmon and sardines. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019, a move industry observers blamed not just on a price-fixing scandal but on a lack of innovation. Taiwan-based seafood trader FCF now owns Bumble Bee. At the same time, consumers had been turning away from canned tuna, especially the millennials and members of Generation Z, known to circle the fresh and chilled items that tend to ring the perimeter of a grocery store. Packaged tuna sales in general, lackluster for years, enjoyed a temporary lift during the early months of the pandemic. I honestly thought I was eating conventional shrimp when I took a bite of it. Those events and trends sent Bumble Bee on a process of soul searching, which led to redefining its purpose as “feeding people’s lives through the power of the ocean.” Beyond fish, the San Diego-based company is casting a wide net by considering ingredients derived from plants and algae, from fermentation and from cell-based or cultivated methods, too. Bumble Bee points out that it’s the first shelf-stable seafood name to support regenerative practices for the ocean, as well as the first to offer a tuna traceability tool to its customers and to use blockchain technology to trace its frozen seafood’s origins. “With all of that, it became very natural to start talking to a company like Good Catch,” said Renee Junge, Bumble Bee’s communications vice president. The tuna giant and the alt-food startup signed a distribution agreement in March 2020, the first relationship of its kind between a major national seafood brand and a plant-based one. The two CEOs — Jan Tharp of Bumble Bee and Christine Mei of Gathered Foods — speak on a weekly basis. Bumble Bee brings its expertise in sales, orders, logistics and warehousing together with Good Catch’s expertise in innovation and production. Through investing in systems and resources, the tuna maker gets a cut of Good Catch’s sales. Bumble Bee describes this joint alignment as reflecting the companies’ shared values of protecting the ocean via alternative food sources. “That said, our two companies do have different histories, origin stories, business approaches and cultures,” said Tharp, who also serves on Gathered Foods’ board, via email. “There is a great deal that we can learn from Good Catch; their entrepreneurial and culinary approaches are something we are trying to incorporate into our practices. On the other side, we have systems and processes that are tried and true, which can help Good Catch with efficiencies and scalability. These types of partnerships are not easy, but they are fruitful and essential.” Other alt-fish players Alternative proteins are a big focus for the future of another tuna giant. Thai Union in March began selling its OMG Meat products in Thailand, including meat-free crab meat, fish nuggets and dim sum. The Chicken of the Sea seller is working on “shrimp” as well. The tiny Van Cleve Seafood Co. in October began marketing crunchy coconut “shrimp” in Publix’s GreenWise grocery stores. From the Netherlands, Schouten is exploring alt-tuna with its wheat and soy-based TuNo , and it plans to follow with salmon-like and cod-like products. The private company has been producing plant-based proteins since the 1990s. Meanwhile, lab-grown fish is taking off. Out of San Diego, startup Blue Nalu hopes to bring its cultured mahi-mahi to U.S. plates this year. It reeled in $60 million in debt financing in January. Its partnerships with larger companies include Nutreco, Griffith Foods, Pulmuone, Rich Products and Thai Union Group. Blue Nalu is building a demonstration kitchen with a microbrewery-style restaurant, reportedly able to grow analogs to red snapper, yellowtail amberjack and bluefin tuna. What’s next? This is just a sampling of the organizations exploring the seafood-analog realm. It’s possible that pioneers in alternative proteins, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, will break their silence with offerings in this area as well. Jen Lamy, senior manager of GFI’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative, is excited to see big-name companies getting involved here and hopes others will dive in. What’s the business benefit? “There’s a lot to be gained from companies in this space that pertains also to the efficiency and the ease of the production system compared to relying on a supply of, for example, wild capture fish from the ocean,” she said. “There are all of these reasons coming together at the same time that will, hopefully drive a lot of the companies into the space.” I’m hoping we’ll see a lot of other companies really focused on taste above everything else because that’s what consumers need to need to experience before anything else. Business-to-business activities could accelerate innovations, she added. For instance, companies could open-source their technologies for seafood textures or flavor profiles, she noted. “There’s not sort of one code that everyone is trying to crack,” Lamy said. “Because there are so many differences between the companies, they’re all using either certain ingredients or going for different products or going for different markets.” Consumers have been interested in supporting ocean sustainability for a long time, buying Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish or buying from local fishmongers, but the options for acting on those values haven’t been clear in the past, Lamy said. Not only do plant-based options provide a clearer sustainability story, but the rise of sustainability labeling for them will help to boost consumer confidence. An additional selling point for seafood stand-ins is their nutritional benefits, as chefs seek to right the wrongs of their predecessor, the low-protein, additive-packed crabstick, industrialized since the 1970s. (Its main ingredient is blended-up fish product called surimi , which has been used in Japan for about 800 years.) A key challenge to winning over consumers is in delivering a seafood aroma that’s not intensely fishy, Lamy noted. Among the early offerings she has tasted, the coconut “shrimp” from family-owned Van Cleve Seafood stood out. “It was pretty impressive to me; I honestly thought I was eating conventional shrimp when I took a bite of it,” she said. “I’m hoping we’ll see a lot of other companies really focused on taste above everything else, because that’s what consumers need to experience before anything else.” Pull Quote This is not lab grown meat; we actually use ancient techniques to make modern foods. Defining success for me is when I can sit down in a restaurant and order our product off the menu. In general, there is a lot of dynamism and innovation in this sector, and that is a good thing. I honestly thought I was eating conventional shrimp when I took a bite of it. I’m hoping we’ll see a lot of other companies really focused on taste above everything else because that’s what consumers need to need to experience before anything else. There’s a lot to be gained from companies in this space that pertains also to the efficiency and the ease of the production system. Topics Food & Agriculture Oceans & Fisheries Food & Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Nomad_Soul Close Authorship

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Can Bumble Bee and Nestlé hook the world on fishless fish?

Sony’s Aibo robo dog is back – and it’s cuter than ever

November 1, 2017 by  
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Remember Sony ‘s Aibo pet robot that debuted in 1999? Well, the company just launched a new-and-improved version in Japan today – and it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop a personality over time. Sony designed the robo dog to form “an emotional bond with members of the household while providing them with love, affection and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion.” The robot can learn the layout of your house, respond to voice commands, and melt your heart with nuanced expressions. Aibo was redesigned to be as lifelike as possible. OLED eyes signal changes in expression, fisheye cameras see and recognize individual faces, and actuators allow its body to move smoothly along 22 axes. Over time, the robot learns what behaviors make its owner happy. Similar to a Roomba, the robot can avoid obstacles and accesses the most direct route between locations. Inside, there is built-in LTE and WiFi , a quad-core CPU, and sensors, motors, and gyroscopes. It takes three hours to charge the Aibo robot, and its battery lasts two hours. Pre-orders for the new bot will begin tonight through Sony’s online store in Japan . The Aibo robot costs 179,000 yen (approximately $1,739 USD) and shipments are expected to begin on January 11, 2018. Related: VIDEO: Sony’s new LED light bulb has another very unusual capability The Aibo robot is connected to the cloud, so customers are encouraged to purchase an Aibo Basic Plan that backs up the robot’s unique identity and allows them to access their robot via WiFi or a mobile connection. The plan costs approximately $27 per month; alternatively, a 3-year subscription can be purchased for 90,000 yen ($790 USD). This subscription pairs with the My Aibo app, which manages settings, provides access to photos and allows you to play with a virtual version of the dog. Expect other versions of the Aibo robot in the future. Previously, Sony said that it is “steadily advancing multiple other initiatives in the AI and Robotics field.” + Sony Via Engadget Images via Sony

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Sony’s Aibo robo dog is back – and it’s cuter than ever

These beautiful ceramic heaters help Mexicos vulnerable communities stay warm

October 23, 2017 by  
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These wonderful ceramic Nest heaters are designed to provide much-needed warmth to vulnerable communities in the region of Chiapas, Mexico . The prototypes, designed by Estudio äCo , utilize the properties of ceramics to dissipate and conserve heat. The ECN02 (fire ceramic nest 02) and ECN03 (electric ceramic nest 03) heaters feature durable shells that store and radiate heat for a long time. Not only are they energy-efficient – they also have a colorful, sleek look that’s universally appealing. Related: Egloo launches brilliant electricity-free heater that warms your home for just pennies a day The studio, led by Lucila Torres and Max Almeida, collaborated with Fernando González to develop the project. The team received $100,000 MXN ($5,200 USD) as winners of the Inédito award at the recently concluded Design Week Mexico. + Estudio äCo + Design Week Mexico

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These beautiful ceramic heaters help Mexicos vulnerable communities stay warm

Rolls-Royce is developing mini nuclear power plants

October 23, 2017 by  
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A consortium led by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, famous for its high-end vehicles , has crafted design plans for small-scale nuclear power plants. In an anticipated report to be released this week, the Rolls-Royce-led group is expected to receive approval to further develop its designs, which may eventually be implemented and constructed in the United Kingdom . The aforementioned report comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which, in its study, will formally end a competition held to determine which low-carbon energy sources should be most supported. As highlighted in the report, nuclear power may be primed to experience something of a revival in Great Britain. A parallel Techno-Economic Assessment by the British government also concludes that designs for small nuclear reactors (SMRs), which are only a small fraction of the size of traditional nuclear reactors, will be among the most effective renewable energy technology in the UK. In doing this assessment, policymakers concluded that American designs for similar technology would not be as efficient to manufacture and maintain, and would not be commercially viable. Related: The UK’s newest nuclear power plant could literally shoot rainbows into the sky SMR development by Rolls-Royce and other companies will be partially funded by a £250m pledge by the UK government in 2015 to develop new nuclear-based energy technologies to help the United Kingdom meet its obligations under the Paris agreement . The report cited estimates that once SMR technology has been fully developed, it will deliver power at £60 per megawatt hour, versus £92.50 per megawatt hour at a giant conventional nuclear reactor. Although the stars appear to be aligning in the UK for a nuclear revival, Brexit may throw a wrench into the works by restricting the flow of skilled workers needed to develop and run these systems. Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Rolls-Royce is developing mini nuclear power plants

Solar record-breaking China aims for 50GW installed in 2017

October 20, 2017 by  
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China , a consistent leader in solar power production and installation, is having another banner year with 25 gigawatts of solar energy being installed in June and July alone. It is estimated that China is capable of installing over 50GW of solar energy by the end of 2017. As of October 1, approximately 42GW of solar energy had been installed, though the pace of installations is expected to slow in October. Although China’s solar boom yields economic benefits, an self-interest understanding of the need to protect the environment also drives the movement. “Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the National Congress of China’s Communist Party. “This is a reality we have to face.” Much of the recent growth has been concentrated in the non-utility distributed solar sector, in part because China is pushing a new program called Top Runner, which aims to install more efficient solar panels in smaller projects. By any measure, China is absolutely dominating the global solar race. In 2016, the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people installed 34GW of solar power, the most ever by any country in a single year. In contrast, the United States , in the second place position for added capacity in 2016, added only 14.6GW of solar power. Related: China announces plan to ban sales of fossil fuel cars and shift focus to EVs Although China’s solar energy domination has proven to be valuable in the export market, with many of the components for solar systems around the world being produced locally, the domestic impact of its deliberate, consistent investment in solar energy is undeniable. In transforming its energy economy, out of necessity and strategy, China may provide important global climate leadership in a time when the United States has ceded its authority in this realm. “Taking a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization,” said President Xi Jinping. “[China must] develop a new model of modernization with humans developing in harmony with nature.” Via Electrek Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia

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Solar record-breaking China aims for 50GW installed in 2017

13 innovative, thought-provoking designs that broke new ground at the London Design Festival

October 20, 2017 by  
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Design weeks around the world tend to be dominated by refined furnishings , sleek products , and glitzy lighting – but some of the most interesting works are those that challenge our assumptions about what design is – and what it can be. Independent designers and aspiring students are the masters of this realm, as they’re not afraid to push the envelope and experiment with wild ideas, new materials and novel techniques. Read on for 13 of the most innovative, though-provoking designs we spotted at this year’s London Design Festival . Flywheel by Carlo Lorenzetti Designer Carlo Lorenzetti thinks that we are losing touch with the significance of energy in our daily lives – so he’s created a massive earthenware Flywheel that makes you work for your electricity. The monolithic USB charger generates power as you spin the wheel, but it’ll takes hours and hours to fully charge a cellphone. As above, so below by Kirstie van Noot and Xandra van der Eijk Did you know that 37,000 to 78,000 tons of stardust falls on the earth’s surface every year? Dutch designers Kirstie van Noot and Xandra van der Eijk have set out to harvest this rare material – by collecting it from the rooftops of houses in the Netherlands. Their project As above, so below showcases the micrometeorites they have found, and suggests ways that these precious materials can be used. Trashpresso by Pentatonic Trashpresso is the world’s first mobile, solar-powered recycling plant. Designed by Pentatonic , the micro factory transforms plastic bottles into architectural tiles right before your eyes. 0.6 Chair by Joachim Froment What’s the absolute minimum amount of material needed to create a chair? That’s what Joachim Froment sought to find out – and his answer is the 0.6 Chair. Froment developed an innovative production process to create a sturdy, super lightweight seat made from just 0.6 cm of wood veneer and carbon fiber. Plasma Rock by Inge Sluijs Some say that the world has entered a new geological period called the Anthropocene , which is marked by human influence on the environment. This idea inspired Inge Sluijs to harvest detritus from landfills and transform it into Plasma Rock – a new material made from 100% recycled waste. Bottles Collection by Klaas Kuiken Klaas Kuiken gives fantastic new forms to common green bottles by wrapping them with wire, heating them in an oven, and blowing air into them with a compressor. The results are surprising, sculptural vases that bear little resemblance to their previous form. Living Surface Carpet by Lizan Freijsen Most people want to avoid stains and mildew in their homes – but Lizan Freijsen revels in these signs of decay. The Dutch designer has created an incredible collection of soft, woolen rugs that celebrate the rich colors found in mosses, lichens, and other living natural phenomena. Nose to Tail Table by Nanna Kiil This “Nose to Tail” table appears to have a typical terrazzo surface – but a closer look reveals that it’s actually made of by-products from the livestock industry. Designer Nanna Kiil sought to discover whether consumers can stomach a salami-esque table that incorporates pig parts that would otherwise be discarded. It’s a challenging, provocative piece that serves up the stark realities of our industrial food system. Splatware by Granby Workshop Ceramic tableware is usually turned on a wheel – but Granby Workshop has found away to make amazing plates and mugs by using a hydraulic press to squish colorful mounds of clay! Their experimental SPLATWARE combines industrial techniques with handcrafted elements for spontaneous, creative results. LOKAL by Space10 What will the farm of the future look like? Future living lab Space10 set up a vertical hydroponic farm in the middle of London and invited passersby to try tasty food grown on-site. Over the course of six days their LOKAL pop-up served 2,000 salads made with microgreens and protein-rich spirulina microalgae. On Reflection by Lee Broom Lee Broom ‘s London Design Festival installation boggles the mind. The mirror in this room is not what it seems – walk in front of it, and you won’t see your reflection. The trick? It’s actually a window to an identical room! Fish Skin Textiles by Helene Christina Pedersen Fish skin is an overlooked waste product of the fishing industry. Helene Christina Pedersen has found a way to transform this material into a durable textile that can be applied to a wide range of furnishings. Plastic Primitive by James Shaw James Shaw has developed a technique for shaping recycled plastic into fantastical forms using a custom made extruder gun. For this year’s London Design Festival shaw erected a series of colorful planters and stools at the Ace Hotel. + London Design Festival Coverage on Inhabitat

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13 innovative, thought-provoking designs that broke new ground at the London Design Festival

VW is building an electric race car to set a new speed record

October 20, 2017 by  
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Buckle your seat belt!  Volkswagen , on a mission to become a top producer of electric vehicles, is proving itself by developing an electric race car which will be entered in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb  in 2018. If the company is successful, the race will mark the first time in 31 years VW has competed in the hill climb. The race will take place in Colorado Spring, Colorado , and will be held on June 24, 2018. According to The Verge , the hill climb has been held annually since 1916 in the Rocky Mountains . Though the track is just 12.4 miles long, ascending it is no easy feat. In under 13 miles, vehicles will climb 4,700 feet to the summit 14,000 feet above sea level. Dr. Frank Welsch, the VW board member responsible for the development, said, “The Pikes Peak hill climb is one of the world’s most renowned car races. It poses an enormous challenge and is therefore perfectly suited to proving the capabilities of upcoming technologies.” Related: The Netherlands’ sun-powered Nuna9 race car wins the World Solar Challenge Last year,  e0 PP100 , which was driven by Rhys Millen, set the record for the fastest modified electric vehicle. The electric race car completed the run in eight minutes and 57.118 seconds. At the same time, a Tesla Model S set another record for a production car, with a time of 11 minutes and 48.264 seconds. Reportedly, electric cars have become quite popular at Pikes Peak over the past few years, as the thin air at a higher altitude makes it hard for internal-combustion engines to develop power. The new race car is presently being developed by Volkswagen Motorsport in Germany . According to Welsch, data obtained from the Pikes Peak race will be incorporated into electric vehicles that are sold by all VW brands. The infamous Microbus (which is coming back as an EV in 2022 ) will be but one vehicle improved upon using the lessons learned from the race. + Volkswagen Via The Verge Images via Volkswagen

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