BioDesigning the Future of Food

Material Test 2

March 29, 2017
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Instructor: Stefani Bardin || Collaborators: Kadallah Burrowes

The previous material test, although fruitful with mycelium, did not have a consistency or texture that could be easily extruded for a 3D printer nozzle.  This round of material tests, Kadallah and I blended flour, corn starch, and honey into the inoculated  substrate material.  We had three material tests: one with substrate and honey only, the second with substrate, flour, and honey, and the third with substrate, corn starch, and honey.  We tested with corn starch and flour to thicken and smooth out the texture of the paste.  We need something that extrudes easily and binds to itself well for our 3D printer.  The problem is, we aren’t too sure how the corn starch or the four will affect the mycelium growth.  The mushroom may not grow well with the given nutrients of the new materials.  We added varying amounts of honey to each of our new mixtures to see if the sugars will help the mycelium growth.

 

 

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Material Test 1

March 22, 2017
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Instructor: Stefani Bardin || Collaborators: Kadallah Burrowes

In this first round of material tests, we blended the coffee bean husk substrate material in a food processor to get an even texture for our 3D printer extruder nozzle.  We experimented with the ratio of substrate material to mushroom inoculate.  There is a set of material samples that use a 1:4 mushroom spore to substrate material blend and a second set of material samples that has a 1:2 mushroom spore to substrate material blend.  We also experimented with three different blending methods.  There is a machine blend (very even), a hand mix (fairly even), and a post inoculated test (no blend).

The images above show mushroom mycelia growth after 10 days.  The machine blend with 1:2 ratio, spore to substrate mix, had the smoothest and strongest mycelium growth.  The hand mixed samples were strong but not smooth in growth texture.  The post inoculated samples were very brittle and not smooth.  The machine blend had growth that was structurally strong with a smooth silky texture on the exterior even after we baked the samples.  Our next round of tests will focus on creating a material that can be extruded smoothly.  This blend, although fine in texture, was difficult to extrude.  When pushed from a plastic bag with force, the substrate material broke apart and separated from water.  We need a material that stick to itself well, won’t break, and will not separate from water.

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Mycelium 3D Printer

March 1, 2017
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Instructor: Stefani Bardin || Collaborators: Kadallah Burrowes

We propose to make a gantry-based additive manufacturing robot (ie. 3D printer) which extrudes fibrous nutrient material that has been inoculated with mushroom spores. We propose a digital fabrication technique that is more sustainable and environmentally responsible.  We hope to implement the mycelium 3D printer in fabricating a bee hive out of mushroom material.  The digital fabrication process will allow us to test and study the type of form and architecture which can be design to deter mite infestations in bee hives.  We are looking to the research of Paul Stamets who has been experimenting with certain types of mushrooms and their attributes to prevent mite infestations in hives.  We hope to see if architectural form and materiality can be used to in tandem to prevent mite infestation and colony collapse of bee hives.

Rough project schedule

Paul Stamets

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Bees as Superorganisms

February 15, 2017
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The recent conversation of microbes and our symbiotic relationship with bacteria has sparked a new ideas for my interest with bees.

For some beekeepers, a bee colony is not to be seen as a collection of individual organisms but as one single organism.  Within a bee colony each bee has an individual tasks that lends to the health and success of the hive.  With in a bee colony there are bees to breed, nurse, build, guard, and forage.  Each bee with it’s specific task can be compared to an individual cell within an organism.  The set of collective bees given a specific task can be compared to an organ within an organism. Given this analogy, honey harvesting is a destructive practice, which requires beekeepers to break into the collective organism, disrupting internal functions, weakening organs, and threatening the survival of the hive.  After harvesting honey, beekeepers must wait weeks before they can harvest honey in order to allow the colony to reach a state of healthy equilibrium. Very clearly, the relationship bees have with other bees in their hive is is very different than the relationship we have with the microbes in our bodies.  If we were to make any comparison between the two systems, I would say that our bodies function more similarly to a hive not a bee (at this scale).   

Bees are dying all around the world from bacterial disease, viruses, and parasite attacks.  Parasitic mites contribute greatly to the spread of bacterial and viral diseases within and between hives.  Maintaining and keeping hives clean of mites is the only current way to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and keep bee hives healthy.  

I would like to investigate the architectural form and materiality of the hive.  Is it possible to treat the hive as a living organism?  Could the walls and structure host the necessary microbes to stabilize or augment the affects of the disease causing bacteria or prevent parasite from inhabiting the colony?  Can a mycelium material host these types of microbes necessary for a healthy bee colony?  

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Vertical Gardens

February 8, 2017
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Above: Vertical garden architecture and axonometric section of Kowloon City.

The Farmbot sparked a few interesting questions for me.  Upon first seeing it in XYZ (Ben Light’s class) and now in Biodesigning the Future of Food, I see so much potential in the the farming process not only along the X-axis and the Y-axis, but also the Z-axis.  The concept of vertical farming has been a fascinating speculative subject for architects and urban designers.  Without the available square footage in urban areas, the only way to farm is to move vertically with layers of compact crop fields.  I always imagined these vertical gardens through the lens of Kowloon City.  How could we co-exist within  intersecting green spaces with a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals?  Can a hybrid urban environment develop and be sustained?  Can we provide an infrastructure that a lots for more ecological niches?

I found some discussions on the idea for vertical farming.  Within the sea of vast support for vertical gardens which seem to function more for spectacle than for speculation, I found Anderson Ruben, a sustainability consultant from Canada.  Ruben asks “But at what cost?” to the idea of vertical gardens.  He argues that all methods of vertical gardening and many “sustainable” systems required the use of non-renewable resources to be realized.  He proposes the idea of extraction when we consume and make.    When things are extracted from a system, they are removed, unable to be returned which is unsustainable.  Non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels, are inherently extracted resources, but what happens when the system that is supposed to be sustainable requires more energy to make and sustain than it is capable of pushing out? 

Anderson Ruben’s Website

Below: Vertical garden warehouse and an aquaponic garden diagram which gets plants nutrients and energy from other organisms.  These organisms then receive their nutrients from the plants in one ‘closed’ system.

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The body and mind are inseparable….

January 31, 2017
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In  Proust was a Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer explain’s that science and art are not independent of each other.  Lehrer says that for Walt Whitman, the “body and mind are inseparable….  This is Whitman’s central poetic idea.  We do not have a body, we are a body. Although our feelings feel immaterial, they actually begin in the flesh.”

Extending this idea of Whitman,  I reimagined the relationship of the mind to the body at the scale of a larger ecosystem.  I placed this claim, that the mind and body are one, against the field of synthetic biology as it was presented in the New Yorker article, A Life of its Own, by Michael Specter.  Synthetic Biology, is not a new field, but with the advancements in genetic research the field is breathing new life.  The infinite possibilities of augmented DNA sequencing for many scientists and corporations promises possible solutions to many of the world’s problems, ranging from a cure for hunger to cures for disease.   Many of these solutions address the immediate future, but few lack the vision to project how their work will affect the world for generations to come.  The seduction of this technology worries me.   In the article, it seems that Specter hints to the notion that we should be skeptical of the promises this technology makes.  Genetically modifying crops to produce more artemisinin, a reliable natural ingredient for fighting malaria, seems to have great promise, but it does not come free of any consequences.  Doing this would make the medicine much cheaper and more readily available for those in need around the world, but this new genetically modified plant would not longer be grown in areas where it was naturally found and consequently would no longer be the source of income for people in those areas.  It would be primarily grown in labs of major pharmaceutical corporations in developed countries.  Do we sacrifice the lives of one group for another?  In this case, the consequences are not as extreme.  One could always suggest that those robbed of the crop that they once grew could find another crop to grow for their new source of income, but what about other areas where genetic modification has been suggested as a solution.   

The article proposes that Darwinian evolution is over, that humanity has become god and with our new power of synthetic biology, we will be able to design a world without disease or discomfort.  But the world is not full of unlimited resources and humanity is not free of fault.  These genetic modification comes with a price I’m sure.  In what state will we find our ecosystem in the distant future?  For every solution there is another problem.  If we cure the diseases of the world we will need to cure the problem of world hunger because there will be more mouths to feed.  In which hands do we give the science.   Some nations may keep it for themselves, coveting and exploiting a resource that others do not have access to.  It is a theme that has played out with oil, water, land, and every other resources.  Even more worry some is this technologies use in biological warfare.  This technology could be used for mass genocide by targeting a specific genome that only a certain population may have.

Genetic modification comes with a huge ethical problem that I’m not sure if we can answer.   Do we neglect to help those today for the sake of generations to come.  That is why I liked the relationship proposed by Walt Whitman. The physical “body” of the world is not free of the world’s “mind”.  If the all the physical parts of an ecosystem (us included) make up the body, then culture and human relations make up the mind.  One is not independent of the other.  If we interfere with an organism or an entire ecosystem we should consider what kinds of scars we are leaving on the world’s body and the type of scars it will leave on the world’s mind.  What types of cultural paradigms will shift?  Will values change?  Will the worth of a human life stay the same?

In short, the psychology of the world should not be neglected for the health of a few organisms.  We must consider the consequences for our actions; we are not the only species in this system.

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