At this point, it's no secret we're killing our planet at a frighteningly rapid pace. With plastic and other toxic materials polluting our oceans and infiltrating our air supply, it's more important now than ever for designers and scientists to develop scalable solutions to help reverse the bad habits we've created on both the producer and consumer levels.
To that note, tucked away in Brooklyn's New Lab was last week's Biofabricate conference. Bringing together the best in bio materials innovation, the fourth-annual Biofabricate focused on starting and continuing a dialogue between scientists, academics and designers and reinforcing the importance of collaboration within the biofabrication realm.
Key highlights of the 1-day conference included the presentations, of course, but also included the announcement of a new partnership between Biofabricate and Parley for the Oceans (who you may remember from their collaboration with adidas) and Biofabricate's exhibition space, which featured material works from exciting projects around the world.
The conference itself was divided into five sessions. The first of the five was "Designing for Health" where Richard Beckett of Arch-T and SynDeBio gave a fascinating talk on designing architectural structures that encourage plant growth instead of avoiding it as most buildings do. This particular session and its speakers focused on community and living spaces, which you don't typically come to mind when you think of biofabrication—it's generally thought of on a smaller-scale.
The following session was all about "Turning Problems Into Solutions," and the main problem addressed by speakers Cyrill Gutsch of Parley for the Oceans and Molly Morse of Mango Materials was plastic. From Gutsch's perspective, we need to focus less on recycling plastic and focus more on ending its use entirely. "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is an outdated model that Gutsch has replaced with "AIR," which stands for "Avoid, Intercept, Redesign." So, instead of repurposing plastics, we need to be completely redesigning them from the start.
Session three, titled "Collaboration Driving Innovation," focused on designers and scientists joining forces to address environmental problems. Liz Ciokajlo of OurOwnsKIN and Maurizio Montalti of Officina Corpuscoli and MOGU explained in detail the MarsBoot they created for MoMA's Is Fashion Modern? exhibition and how their collaboration with each other and outside scientists was an integral part of bringing their project to life. Natsai Chieza of Faber Futures then gave a presentation about her residency at Boston's Ginkgo Bioworks, where she worked with Ginkgo's team of scientists to develop a new strain of bacteria that produces the pigments she uses in her bacterial fabric dyeing process.
The fourth session entitled "Evolving Materials" covered everything from Modern Meadow's liquid leather ZOA to apples designed to remain fresh and never brown. Ecovative's Eben Bayer also came to the stage to discuss his mycelium materials and kits—as one of the longest standing companies within that realm, it was especially fascinating to hear about how Bayer kept Ecovative going strong through tough economic times.
The conference appropriately concluded with a session on "Growing the Future," where speakers focused on the biofabrication business from two angles—how to successfully grow a biofabrication company and key companies currently supporting biofabrication, such as Miroslava Duma's Fashion Tech Lab. This last session left things on a positive note and encouraged attendees to reach outside of their realm to work with unexpected partners.
Sadly, we missed out on the cricket-themed workshop, but maybe next year.