Theme/Year: Food Systems 2015
Category: Open Challenge
Status: Award Winner
Land degradation and water scarcity are global challenges compromising food security; they especially affect the livelihood of poor people who heavily depend on agriculture. Millions of them live in arid and semi-arid seawater coastal areas. Bringing enough water in these areas, together with suitable land practices, could help regenerating the degraded soil and its productivity. To understand how to address this complex challenge we took inspiration on how coastal ecosystems such as Mangroves and Salt Marshes manage water resources in a salty water environment. Pioneer species of these ecosystems such as Avicennia and Salicornia thrive in salty water and start building up the ecosystem, creating conditions conducive for other species to come and access other water resources. To emulate this process, we selected as our "pioneer technological species" the solar still, the simplest desalination technology which emulates the natural water cycle and we innovated it taking inspiration from nature. The Mangrove Still embeds nature's design principles which optimize the capture of light and thermal regulation. Like nature, it is built with recyclable and re-usable materials. Because it is easy to be built and modular, several Mangrove stills can be assembled in systems creating adaptable configurations to provide water to the land or drinking water to people. Furthermore, like nature´s design, the Mangrove still is multifunctional as it could also be used for treating polluted water and as a dryer, for food processing. More than this, the Mangrove still shows efficiency comparable to current solar stills but it costs at least 5 times less, making of it a financially viable desalination process also for the poors.
The Mangrove Still will kick start the process of progressive land re-vegetation which will slowly allow to regenerate land in coastal areas and build up communities the same way ecosystems develop and grow.