MANILA, Philippines – Can Filipino technology come to the aid of Mother Nature? The latest innovations exhibited in the 2014 National Science and Technology Week are definitely a step in the right direction.
Rappler picks 5 inventions with big potential to make industries, lifestyles and even government policies more sustainable.
These new ideas are proof that you don’t need to look too far for high-tech. Nature provides astounding raw materials with the boundless human mind as the magic ingredient.
1. Aquaponic Urban Vertical Garden
Do you live in the city but have always wanted to grow your own vegetables?
A project from Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija designed by professor Chito Sace allows you to grow a garden of leafy vegetables within one square meter of space.
A submersible pump in a water-filled cylinder lifts the water into hose pipes running through shelves of vegetables.
The water being pumped through the entire system is nutrient-rich because of the freshwater fish swimming in the cylinder. The manure of the fish acts as organic fertilizer for the vegetables.
After going through all the vegetables, the water streams into a filter made of gravel (where you can also plant more veggies). Cleansed of bits of soil it picked up along the way, the water goes back to the cylinder for the process to start all over again.
The demo garden on exhibit had kangkong, lettuce, pechay and mustasa planted in plastic cups of carbonized rice hull. But garden soil will work fine as well.
You can use any fresh water fish but red tilapia is recommended because they are adaptable and do not thrash around as much as other fish.
This vertical garden needs 35 watts of energy to activate the pump.
2. Watershed Information Portal for the Philippines
Not everyone knows what a watershed is, much less how important it is to human communities. Watersheds are ecosystems that, through the hydrological cycle, provide us with the water for drinking, bathing, cleaning and all its other uses. Watersheds also happen to be the habitat of amazing flora and fauna.
For the first time ever, any Filipino can learn about the unique characteristics of the country’s various watersheds just by going online.
If you visit philwatershed.org, you’ll have access to a comprehensive database of all the empirical observations related to each watershed – everything from what kinds of trees and animals can be found there to how rainfall can affect the quality of its water.
The site is a project of leading state universities, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
So far, the portal has data on only 3 watersheds but eventually, it hopes to cover all major watersheds in the country.
Aside from creating awareness about watersheds, the site can also be used by government officials and the private sector in order to make good decisions on how to best manage their watershed.
What happens to the quantity and quality of water if a portion of the watershed is deforested? Where can the community put up an agro-forestry program without affecting the water quality? Leaders can now make science-based decisions on these concerns.
3. Classy furniture using forest waste
You don’t need to cut down trees to make beautiful furniture and building materials if you have Naturescast, a wood-like material that is actually made of stuff you usually see on the forest floor.
Twigs and other debris that fall from forest trees are ground and then hardened using a water-based binder. The grainy mixture is hand-pressed into a mold and naturally dried.
What you get is a very sturdy material that appears in a variety of textures and hues.
Nature’s Legacy, the group behind Naturecast, uses it to make lamps, vases, chairs and even walls and ceilings. Renowned Filipino furniture designer Ito Kish carries some of their products in his store. The Body Shop has used boxes made from Naturescast as packaging for some of their products.
Naturescast is 100% biodegradable and made using a non-toxic process.
4. Coconut milk for treating burns
The tree of life lives up to its name by being used to heal wounds.
After realizing how expensive burn treatments can be, Filipino nurse Denver Chicano invented a treatment using nata de coco. Coconut milk is used to create a “cellulose” or tissue-paper-like material that is applied to burns and other skin wounds.
The coco cellulose, which feels like a strip of coconut meat, adheres to the skin and has a high water-holding capacity, making it an ideal treatment. It also has a cooling effect that helps ease the pain of patients.
The treatment, called VERMAC (Vitro-Engineered Restorative Micro-cellulose Absorbent Covering), is produced by XYDERM Corporation Philippines and is now being used in several doctors’ clinics all over the country.
Aside from providing a cheaper alternative to healing wounds, coco cellulose is a new way of adding value to coconut products harvested by Filipino coconut farmers. Its widespread use can mean more livelihood for them.
5. Wood engineered from coconut fronds
Coconut farmers have another reason to celebrate. Palwood uses coconut fronds, typically considered an agricultural waste, to make “wood” that can be use to make furniture and even houses.
The Zamboanga del Norte-based company buys coconut fronds from farmers and grinds them into a mixture which is then applied with a binder and hardener.
This type of engineered wood is 70% made of coconut frond and is said to be even harder than coco lumber (derived from the trunk of the coconut tree).
Coconut fronds, or palapa in Tagalog, is the leafstalk of the coconut leaf from which the smaller leaves (called leaflets) grow.
An eyesore when it falls to the ground, it is usually just thrown away by coconut farmers. But with Palwood, they may now be able to make money out of it.
But Palwood is not yet able to mass-produce because they lack the necessary machinery. Interested investors can get in touch with them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2014 National Science and Technology Week takes place from July 24 to 28 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. Entrance is free.