Clay refrigerator can cool food without electricity

Equipment can change the lives of people without resources or access to the power grid.

A refrigerator is not an affordable product for millions of needy families around the world – home appliances are one of the most expensive and, in addition to the price, the equipment also needs access to electricity. In addition, its production and use have a negative environmental impact.

One solution is in a simple material, often used in water filters: clay. Without using electricity, these refrigerators are being manufactured around the world, offering an affordable and ecological possibility for those who need to refrigerate food, but are unable to pay for an electric refrigerator or access to the electricity network in the place where they live.

The water evaporates and carries the heat along

Ecoplanet is a refrigerator made with mud and sand, 100% ecological and able to guarantee low temperatures without the use of electricity. Developed by a Mexican company called Depresa, the equipment was created for families who live in needy regions where there is no electricity, so that food can be preserved for longer. You can also find similar refrigerators in developing countries, such as; Morocco and India.

It looks like a big ceramic jug and works according to physicochemical principles: they are two clay containers, separated by a thick layer of sand and earth. The equipment is placed in half shade and, when the sand water evaporates, the temperature of the structure drops, guaranteeing fresh and preserved food for much longer.

Since 2015, the company’s products have been marketed and have recently been included in public social development actions to ensure a better quality of life for families in need or those living in rural areas of Mexico.

Bees and wild flowers return to flowerbeds in England.

Experts believe quarantine will have positive long-term effects for pollinators and native plant species.

During quarantine, many green areas are recovering, with native vegetation growing freely – including wildflowers that were disappearing. According to conservationists in Europe, this scenario is already being observed in England, which favours not only the species of wildflowers in the region, but the population of bees, which have been gradually decreasing.

This moment of recovery for green areas can lead to an invasion of colours during spring and summer in Europe, bringing benefits not only to bees, but also to other pollinators, such as butterflies, birds and bats.

Sidewalk and roadside flowerbeds are a great refuge for plant species that have been losing space to agriculture and residential spaces. These small spaces may seem unimportant, but they are home to 700 species of wild flowers and about 45% of the flora in England.

The green areas located on the side of roads and streets are normally pruned and lose the enormous potential they have for the conservation of fauna and flora. This pruning usually takes place before flowering and seed production by plants, which has caused many flowers to disappear from the landscape, including daisies and betonias.

Golden opportunity

According to Plantlife, a non-profit institution that works to conserve wild plants with 23 nature reserves in the United Kingdom, this may be the best for the local flora in many years, thanks to the rest that green areas are having with the pandemic.

While many cities are postponing the pruning of beds and green areas, others are already re-evaluating the need for such frequent pruning. “This is a golden
opportunity for plants to flower as they should, for the first time in years. With the quarantine possibly ending at the end of May, many drivers will find a landscape of flowers and colours as they travel along the roads, ”explains Trevor Dines, a botanist who works for Plantlife.

The vegetation in the areas of intersections and traffic signs needs to be pruned for safety reasons, but in most areas along public roads, it is possible to let the plants grow a little more. “Our recommendation for local authorities that have not done pruning so far is to let the plants grow until August and see how the flora and people will react,” says Trevor.

Long-term solutions

Kate Petty manages a campaign to postpone pruning in beds and green areas and believes that the short-term effects will be able to change the opinion of public administrators and long-term pruning policies, benefiting threatened species of plants.

“Recovery is extremely simple. Cutting less or postponing pruning will help plants recover, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to re-educate ourselves and accept the diversity and a bit of a mess of nature, she says.

Good news for bees and other animals

Trevor Dines is also an advocate for bees and believes that less pruning will help pollinators, who depend on wild flowers to survive. “This scenario will certainly favour pollinators. Last year I already noticed this in areas with less pruning – it was my best year in honey production”, he celebrates.

“It also has a great benefit for people's mental health. Everyone is in need of colourful, beautiful landscapes and nature. We will see how the population will react because for many people, including me, flowerbeds and green areas along the road are the only contact with the local nature”, he concludes.

The rate of running over of wild animals in England is expected to decline sharply this year. In 2019 cars and trucks killed 100,000 hedgehogs, 100,000 foxes, 50,000 badgers, 30,000 deer and many birds.

5 Sustainable start-ups to watch in 2020

1. Afresh

According to the UN, roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption is either lost or wasted, which is around 1.3 billion tonnes. No surprises that the ‘rich’ countries of the west are the worst culprits, they waste nearly as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire sub-Saharan Africa produces (230 million tonnes).

A start-up based in San Francisco is tackling the big issue of quick-to-spoil fresh food, which is the bulk of all food sent to landfill. Afresh combines AI with big data sets to enable more precise inventory management. By combining data on seasonal variations for fruit, changes in consumer demand and AI, retailers can make better decisions about when to order less or more stock. As detailed on their website:

“Afresh uses artificial intelligence combined with massive amounts of data to assist human operators in better managing our fresh food supply. We use the same kinds of algorithms that power Google data centers and AlphaGo to make the fresh food supply chain wildly more efficient.”

The founders, 3 Stanford graduates, have already raised $7.8 million and with features in Forbes, Bloomberg and The Spoon, this is definitely a sustainability company to watch in 2020.

2. Ecovative Design

Mycelium is at the heart of revolutionary applications, developed by Ecovative Design. Mycelium is “the fungus mushrooms are made of, but it can also produce everything from plastics to plant-based meat to a scaffolding for growing organs”, as explained in Scientific American.

The process of growing mycelium results in limited waste (mostly compostable) and requires minimal energy consumption, so it’s a sustainable alternative to plastic food packaging. It was initially just an application developed by Ecovative Design but the range now includes sustainable skincare products, padding and insulation for apparel, plant based leather and even vegan meat.

Their sustainable packaging solution, recognised in Forbes and Business Insider, was adopted by Dell and IKEA. But it’s the new brands launched by the Ecovative team that we’re excited for this year.

Atlast Food Co., one of its spin-off businesses, has developed the “network of fibers grown by mycelium (the roots of mushrooms) to create a blank canvas of edible, protein-laden, nutrient-rich tissue that can be combined with plant-based fats, flavors and other ingredients to make steak, chicken breast and bacon without the animals.”

The process takes a few days and everything is grown in vertical farms.

Ecovative has raised over $30million to date and with their new bacon product
“Bacon without the oink”, which has 0% fat, 0% cholesterol, 0% sodium, is non-GMO and a whole food. We’re expecting them to be a big player in the sustainable plant-based protein market.

3. Agremo

An agri-tech firm based in Belgrade, Serbia, Agremo are helping farmers achieve more sustainable and efficient yields. Combining drone footage with AI, machine learning and computer scanning, Agremo provides farmers with effective tools for field management, plant counting and crop health monitoring. Accessing real time data improves yields, whilst managing resources that are used in production.

Established in 2015, the start-up secured $800,000 seed funding from SC Ventures and now has over 2,000 users in over 100 countries. They were in the Top 3 of the CEE Startup Challenge IV, one of the largest online start-up competitions in Central and Eastern Europe. The competition is run by Vestbee, which connects start-ups with investors and corporates globally.

4. RootWave

The negative impact of pesticides and herbicides on our waterways, land and air has been well researched. In addition to the wider benefits of eating organic foods, finding ways to eliminate toxic chemicals from our food production is a key factor in sustainable supply systems. One solution is electricides, as developed by RootWave.

The company kills weeds using electricity, the energy produced kills the weeds from the inside out by boiling them, without harming other life forms:

“RootWave’s technology uses electricity to kill weeds from the roots upwards. The $30bn herbicides industry is under pressure due to herbicide-resistant weeds and increasing regulation and litigation. RootWave’s technology is the leading solution for herbicide-free and effective weed control, contributing to more sustainable agriculture, a cleaner environment and a healthier food chain.”

This UK based agri-tech closed a Series A raise of €6.5million in January 2020, led by V-Bio Ventures and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund and joined by Pymwymic.

Since inception in 2012, the company has been shortlisted for a number of awards including the Amazon Growing Business Awards, the Future of Food Awards and also won silver for the Innovation Award at GroenTechniek in 2019. Definitely one to watch in 2020!


SOKTI is a leading tech platform focused on sustainability. The platform is providing five different buckets to connect sustainable goods and services suppliers with businesses, consumers and other sustainable supply chain partners. The first phase will be focused on sustainable food. It includes:

  • SOKTI Insight – providing news, articles and the latest reports relating to
  • SOKTI Connect – a connection between entrepreneurs, buyers, wholesalers,
    growers, producers and manufacturers with other sustainable organizations.
  • SOKTI Marketplace – a sustainable e-commerce platform where buyers and sellers of sustainable products can do business
  • SOKTI Smart Seal – a decentralised certification system to authenticate sustainable credentials.
  • SOKTI Supply Chain – for members only to do business with each other openly, transparently and easily using safe blockchain technology.

SOKTI, was established in San Francisco, USA and it’s three founders have a strong background in the sustainable industry. One founder, Heidi de Bruin, is based in the Netherlands and is the founder and ex-CEO of Protifarm, one of the world’s leading producers of sustainable alternative proteins in the Netherlands.

Heidi commented on the reason for founding SOKTI:

“SOKTI has been established to meet growing demands for greater transparency, connectivity and accountability in sustainable food supply. We will be focusing initially on sustainable protein, such as plant based and insect based, however our platform is being developed to meet wider sustainability needs in the long term. We’re using the latest technology to connect sustainable suppliers, partners and customers, developed by our international team of expert advisors. Our goal is to accelerate global sustainability.”


Interesting fact: 15 volcanoes erupt in the Pacific in just one night

Significant volcanic activity took place in the Pacific on 10/04 Friday night as 15 volcanoes erupted, with the most powerful being from Krakatoa.

Fifteen of the total volcanoes around the world were reported expelling ash, erupting or launching incandescent material, including Popocatépetl, in Mexico.

The following is a list of registered seismic activity last Friday night; 12 were close to the Pacific coast, amidst the general fears of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Klyuchevskoy, in Kamchatka, Russia, threw ashes at a height of 6,100 meters.

–  Shiveluch, in Kamchatka, Russia, ejected volcanic ash at an altitude of 36,000 feet.

– Aso, Kyushu Central, Japan.

– Kuchinoerabu-jima, located on the Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

– Sakurajima, located in Kyushu, Japan.

– Ibu, in Halmahera, Indonesia

– Krakatoa, located in the Sunda Strait, Indonesia

Merapi, in Central Java, Indonesia, emitted a column of ash that rose to an altitude of 6,100 meters.

– Semeru, located in East Java, Indonesia

– Dukono, located in Halmahera, Indonesia, emitted volcanic ash.

– Kerinci, in Sumatra, Indonesia.

 Popocatépetl, in central Mexico. At 10:15 pm, an explosion occurred that generated an eruptive column close to 1km high and the emission of incandescent fragments.

– Sangay, Ecuador, expelled Ceiniza from a height of 5,800 meters.

– Sabancaya, located in Peru, emitted ashes that reached a height of 7,300 meters.

– Nevados de Chillán, located in Chile.

Most expelled ashes, but the strongest movement was in Krakatoa, which launched an eruptive column up to 15 km high, generating a volcanic ray.

So far, risks to the population have not been ruled out. In 1883, the volcano erupted and killed almost 40,000 people.

Plastic is the New Asbestos for the Construction Industry

Merseyside builder Neal Maxwell has launched an innovative project that aims to remove plastic from the British construction industry in as little as twenty years.

Neal Maxwell, has worked in the building trade for more than three decades and established Changing Streams, a non-profit organisation, after a trip to the Artic, where he realised plastic is as problematic as asbestos.

“We used to use asbestos throughout our industry before we knew the damage it was doing to our lungs. We know the damage plastic is doing to our planet and other species. Shouldn’t we treat plastic as the new asbestos?”

Sickened by the levels of plastic pollutants in the Artic Ocean and often devastating impact on wildlife in the polar region, Maxwell and researchers from the University of Liverpool have developed a programme that they say could make construction plastic free by 2040.

Construction is the second largest producer of plastic waste in the UK, after packaging. It is estimated the building trade generates 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year.

Along with the architect Dr Gareth Abrahams from the university’s School of
Environmental Science, Maxwell has drafted a charter that they hope could become legally binding.

The programme for the construction industry includes:

• the phasing out of paint containing plastic;
• the establishment of a “traffic light” guide to warn which paints contain plastic to dissuade DIY consumers from buying them;
• the creation of a template house made without plastic;
• the end of the use of plastic wrapping for building materials such as bricks and cladding.

Maxwell co-founded Changing Streams in 2018 after he and his wife toured
the Arctic on a scientific exploration ship. He said: “On board were 20 scientific specialists from all around the world who helped us understand about the environment and the impact global warming and plastic pollution was having.

“We were told about the walruses while out in kayaks and learned about their
feeding habits and plastic ingestion via clams when in the water. But the moment of truth for me came when we got back to England, when I went on our first food shop at the supermarket to stock up the kitchen again. When I saw row upon row of things covered in plastic it turned my stomach – I had to get out of the shop.

“When I got home, I realised I had to do something about plastic pollution and I could only do that in the industry I’ve worked in for over 30 years. That trip and that moment in the supermarket afterwards convinced me that I should try to make my industry plastic-free.”

Maxwell said he was even more shocked when he discovered how much plastic was used in the construction business.

He and Abrahams hope a “carrot and stick” approach can win over builders, many of whom fear replacing plastic will raise their costs.

“We will not only ask government eventually to adopt this as legally binding
regulations, but also petition large pension fund providers which finance construction to adopt the charter as well,” Maxwell said.

Abrahams says the University of Liverpool aims to construct plastic-free
accommodation on its campus, which is undergoing a multimillion-pound rebuild.

He said: “One of our projects is to create the first ever plastic-neutral commercially viable house. We want to show the building industry this can be done. And through things like coding paint we can hopefully change consumer behaviour as well.”