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Wall-Mounted, Modular Gardening Innovation Wins Student Living Product Prize

A water- and space-efficient gardening system has been announced as the inaugural winner of the student Living Product Prize, a new initiative of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The AquaCity Garden is a modular hydroponic system designed to grow food and plants on indoor walls.

Announced in March, the prize is intended to highlight design products that mimic nature’s design principles and function as elegantly as anything found in the natural world. There are two awards: a $1,500 prize for a student team; and a $10,000 prize for a team in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge Accelerator, to be announced in September 2016.

Biomimicry is essentially a blueprint for any team entering the Living Product Challenge -- it provides time-tested guidance for developing a healthy, regenerative design,” said Biomimicry Institute Executive Director Beth Rattner. “This Challenge is an important part of our growing partnership with the International Living Future Institute. We are working together to transform products and place to be in harmony with nature.”

To design the AquaCity Garden, Jimmy Huynh, Matt Ulery, Patrick Soriano, and Brian Mar from California State University, Long Beach borrowed from honey combs, the lobed comb jellyfish, the Suriname sea toad and planet Earth’s water cycle. The system is composed of octagonal modules that connect in a way similar to a honey comb structure, which allows for maximum space efficiency and numerous configuration options. Designed Designed for use in indoor urban environments such as apartments and offices, the modules can be installed on any flat wall surface, allowing for both easy customization and cleaning.

The features of each module draw further from nature. Inspired by the bioluminescence of the lobed comb jellyfish, LED strips line the modules’ front face to provide the plants with light and change color to relay information on the water’s nutrient levels. The plants are grown in individual capsules inspired by the “nurturing characteristics” of the Suriname sea toad, which store its offspring in little pods in its back.

Nutrient-rich water falls through the back of the module to grow plants hydroponically, which requires no soil. Water flows through the entire system, ultimately being collected and pumped back to the first unit, where the cycle begins again and where additional nutrients can be introduced to the cycle. This ensures each plant receives ample amount of water while also reducing overall water usage, the team explains.

This student team will receive a $1,500 cash prize and professional coaching to help put their ideas into action from International Living Future Institute in recognition of their achievement.

Other entrants in the open category of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge are still holding out hope for the $10,000 Living Product Prize, for which the winner will be announced at the Living Product Expo in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in September. That winner will go on to compete for the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation “Ray of Hope” Prize, to be awarded at the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California in October 2016.

The 10 winners of this year’s main Biomimicry Global Design Challenge competition were announced in June, and each received cash prizes. The seven finalists in the open category each received $2,000 and were invited to enter the 2016-17 Biomimicry Accelerator program, which will also culminate at the Ray of Hope Prize award event. This year’s competition theme was the food system. The next round will focus on climate change solutions.

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