Insect-based pet food and blockchain apps: The best green innovations of the week

Each week, numerous eye-catching and potentially transformational innovations that could help businesses and nations deliver on resource efficiency, low-carbon transitions and combat climate change emerge. Here, edie rounds-up six of the best.

This week's best innovations could drive significant change across the food, renewables and retail sectors

This week's best innovations could drive significant change across the food, renewables and retail sectors

It’s been a busy week for the global sustainability community, with more than 3,000 business leaders, policymakers, thought leaders gathering in Davos for the 48th annual World Economic Forum (WEF).

Under the theme of ‘Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a new architecture in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, speakers including David Attenborough, Matt Damon and Dame Ellen MacArthur hosted discussions covering some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges, from ocean plastic to the future of employment.

But the hot topic of the forum was the circular economy, with non-profit Circle Economy beginning the event by unveiling its research into the global “circularity gap” – the difference between the resources used by humanity and the amount it captures for reuse and recycling. The report’s headline finding was that just 9% of the global economy is currently considered circular.

As reports and announcements exploring resource efficiency in all sectors – from technology to food – emerged throughout the duration of the summit, innovators from all over the globe continued to launch, scale-up or explore products and concepts that could help solve the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges. With this in mind, this week’s round-up covers six items and systems that could help nations and businesses accelerate sustainability commitments and achieve a sustainable future, today.

Giant wind turbines

Over the last few months, several success stories surrounding wind power have landed on the edie editorial desk, from Scotland announcing that its generation output had surpassed 100% of the national demand for the first time, to the launch of a new “city-friendly” turbine which operates in all directions.

Continuing this trend, technology giant Siemens Gamesa this week unveiled the concept for a giant new wind turbine with blades as long as football pitches. The device, called the SG 10.0-193 DD, has a power rating of 10MW and blades which are 94m long.

Siemens Gamesa claims that 20 of the turbines could power a city the size of Liverpool, providing 100% of its energy demand. It intends to launch the device to market by the end of 2020.

Smartphone-friendly supply chain trackers

As the fruits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution continue to change how businesses operate within society, several big-name brands have turned to online mapsblockchain or digital payment systems to boost supply chain traceability in recent times. This, in turn, has helped them to be more transparent with customers and other stakeholders as to how sustainable their sourcing is.

One of the newest innovations in this field comes from WWF, which this week launched a smartphone-enabled scanner that enables customers to track the journey their seafood has been on “from bait to plate”. Called OpenSC and funded by Australian investment firm BCG Digital Ventures, the tool uses blockchain to record information such as the movement of the product and details of its storage. This information is then made available to consumers by scanning the product’s QR code with a smartphone or tablet camera.

The tool is currently only capable of scanning fish, but WWF plans to add more seafood by the end of 2019. It is additionally exploring the feasibility of using OpenSC to track palm oil and timber.

Off-grid EV chargers

As the electric vehicle (EV) revolution continues to gather pace, innovators are beginning to develop technologies and infrastructures which could help the world overcome common barriers to electrifying transport, including ultra-fast chargers and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems.  

Following in their footsteps, Surrey-based fuel cell firm AFC Energy this month launched what it claims is the world’s first off-grid, hydrogen-powered EV charger. The device, called the CH2ARGE, uses small-scale hydrogen fuel cell technology connected to an inverter, which transfers energy created by the fuel cell to an EV charger.

AFC Energy claims the technology is compatible with all existing electric cars and can deliver 80% of the average vehicle’s charging requirements in one hour. The company is touting the product as a “breakthrough” in minimising power demand on the grid as EV ownership increases.

‘Smart’ apps for EV owners

Continuing on the topic of EVs, energy provider Igloo Energy recently unveiled ‘smart’ car charging app which claims to reduce the amount of energy needed to charge a fully-electric car by one-fifth.

The app uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict when low-carbon generation will be feeding into the National Grid, automatically charging the user’s EV when carbon emissions generated through the electricity used are at their lowest. It does so by linking the users digital Tesla and Igloo Energy accounts to their EV charger.

If users enter the specific date and time they would like to use their EV to the app, it will ensure it is charged on time, Igloo Energy claims. Additionally, the smart features can be overridden if the EV is needed at short notice.

The app is currently only available to Tesla owners, with Igloo Energy set to add more brands by the end of 2019. It incentivises use by offering users a £5 coffee vouchers for every 10 ‘smart’ charges they complete.

Insect-based pet food

Sustainable food has proven to be something of a hot topic in recent times, with retailers launching plant-based food for Veganuary and scientists researching ‘planet-friendly’ diets as concerns surrounding the amount of resources and water used to produce food in the current system continue to mount. An often-cited solution to the food system’s sustainability challenges is the consumption of insects, which require less land, water and feed to produce than traditional protein such as beef, eggs, pork and poultry. 

The UN estimates that two billion people worldwide are already regularly consuming insects, with the trend beginning to make its way to the UK. Innovators are now touting insect-based protein as a solution to decarbonising the pet food industry.

Startup Yora this month unveiled what it claims is the UK’s first insect-based dog food, which is made from a blend of grubs, oats and potato fibres. Per kilo of protein generated, farming the larvae takes around 2% of the land and 4% of the water needed to produce beef, Yora claims. The insects are bred to grow to full size in 14 days, ensuring a consistent supply and mitigating the need for hormones and antibiotics.

The product is now on sale at a range of supermarkets and pet stores, with an RRP of £14.99 per 1.5kg bag.

Reusable consumer goods packaging

The plastics recycling industry is facing a wave of scrutiny from consumers and policymakers at the moment, largely due to China’s announcement last January that it would stop accepting 24 types of plastic waste imports. Indeed, several sustainability professionals and green campaign groups have begun to tout reuse and refill as the only viable solution to the world’s plastic pollution problem in recent times, given that just 9% of all plastic produced has ever been recycled.

This week, 24 of the world’s largest food and drink, health and beauty and stationery firms unveiled more than 250 innovative, refillable versions of their products after partnering with TerraCycle to develop a ‘zero waste’ shopping service called Loop. The platform, which will go live in Paris and New York City in March, enables businesses to provide product refills while retaining ownership of their reusable packaging.

Packaging innovations designed for the platform include double-walled aluminium ice cream tubs from Haagen Daas, metal stick deodorant holders from AXE and P&G’s stainless-steel toothbrushes with detachable, fully recyclable heads. None of the designs contain any single-use plastic components.

Sarah George



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