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UK-based food tech startup Arborea has partnered with Imperial College London to cover their West London campus rooftops with its BioSolar Leaf panels. The system is similar to solar panels, but instead of generating energy the panels are used to cultivate algae. The algae is used in food (the microorganisms are high in protein, antioxidants, and other nutrients), while at the same time the process draws CO2 out of the air and produces clean oxygen at a rate 100 times that of trees.

Okay, so this initiative might not seem immediately relevant to many readers. But here’s why you don’t need to be an algae specialist to see how these microorganisms could have a massive environmental impact:

Eco-urban. Trend-driven innovation is about catering to people’s basic human needs. And food security and air pollution will be two issues that will become increasingly important to consumers the world over. Global food demand is forecast to increase by a massive 70% by 2050, largely driven by the world’s urban population growing by a further 2.5 billion people in that period. While a staggering 90% of the world’s population already breathe polluted air. Put all these data points together and the demand for this innovation couldn’t be higher. Oh, and it also ticks many other modern consumer boxes: it’s hyper-local, vegan, GMO-free, and the sterile production process means zero pesticides! Does your next sustainability initiative offer as much?! If not, could you help Arborea scale this technology? Or why not partner with your nearest university and help scale up a similarly world-changing urban technology?    

1+1=3. As the famous quote goes, ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’. So too with innovation. Even technically ground-breaking innovations such as this build on multiple earlier innovations: such as green walls, rooftop solar panels and superfood algae. Which existing technologies could you combine and leverage in order to help solve a different problem?  

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