Author: emma-newman


Growing bannetons from mycelium & food waste – Research Resident Candyce Dryburgh

Candyce is a design and material researcher who is also a baker and fermenter. She has now her Local Forms project to the Lab. Having done her masters in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, many of her projects are often driven and dictated by materials.

Her current project, Local Forms, rose from the constant daily battle of having to work with bad quality proving baskets. A banneton, also known as a proving basket, is integral to the process of making bread and as a practising baker she is in contact with them on a daily basis. The dough proves in the banneton over night before it’s turned out, dusted off and baked in the oven.

The bannetons currently used in most artisan bakeries are either made from wood pulp or woven from wicker. There is an outcry for objects to be made from more reliable sources and materials. Currently there is a big conversation amongst the baking community around how the quality of the wood pulp banneton has dropped over the years. To kickstart the project Candyce reached out to bakers across the country : both home bakers and bakers on a larger scale. Her mission was to understand the relationship between baker and banneton.

An important fact came up through this research : most, if not all, wood pulp bannetons are made in Germany by a large company, who are not very approachable. They have claimed that nothing has changed about their banneton production, but bakers who use and rely on them on a daily basis argue otherwise. This gave Candyce the motivation to explore and tap into current UK waste streams aiming to bring the banneton back, stronger and more local than the previous years.

While exploring with bio plastics and coffee waste (that was being collected from the cafe which is part of the bakery where she works) she stumbled into the realm of mycelium. Being a home grower of vegetables, she wondered what it would be like to ‘grow’ a banneton.  Mycelium is an amazing organism that finds nutrients from what we deem as waste. Through this new found interest and awe in the mycelium kingdom Candyce’s project became about how we can localise and grow bannetons from the local waste.

The ‘Myco-farm’ started off in a very domestic setting : a room in the house and wasn’t too successful during the winter months due to lack of temperature control and contamination. It was put on hold for a bit while she took part in the BioHack Academy at the WAAG in Amsterdam. While doing the 10 week course, amongst loads of other tings, she learnt basic lab etiquette and but also had the time to teach herself about cultivating mycelium on a very small and sterile scale.

On returning back to London her current challenge is to get the mycelium growing strong enough to not have to be in a completely sterile environment and is now also experimenting with different shapes and materials that the mycelium will grown in.

One major factor of this project is the cost. From the get go it was essential that the project cost a minimal as possible, from the mycelium starters to the substrate that the mycelium is grown on. So far everything is collected locally, coffee and flour waste from the bakery that Candyce works at, saw dust and wood chip from a local carpenters.

As with everything that is grown, it’s impossible to tell if its successful right away. LocalForms has become a game of patience and waiting, a bit like baking.

 

Research Residency Wrap-Up: Sneha Solanki

Sneha Solanki is an alumnus of our research residency programme. She is from the A to Z Unit, a “culinary research facility with a mission to map, investigate and interact with food systems and ecologies.” During her time at Green Lab, Sneha worked on her MICRO_FOOD project through which she is building a library of micro-organisms. Sneha believes that micro-organisms need to be acknowledged for their hard work which often goes uncredited in our food systems. Sneha developed extensive diagrams and maps of the library, focussing around the themes of Infrastructure, Interchange and Exchange. In her preliminary research, Sneha adopted a multi-disciplinary approach and spoke to experts in each one of her 3 grand themes.

  • Exchange – Sneha collaborated with Kate Rich from Feral Trade (an art project/grocery business experiment). “Kate offered thoughts on workable and sustainable economic methods and models whilst also discussing scale. A project of this nature doesn’t offer the usual economic ethos of ‘scale’ or ‘scaling-up’ but does offer one where scale moves in a horizontal or a ‘network’ format.”
  • Interchange – Sneha spoke with participatory artist and consultant Alexia Mellor about the design of the library. Conversations included working towards a travelling library which could reach the “commons”, a DIWO approach (‘do it with others’) and how library might translate into a workshop setting.
  • Infrastructure – Sneha worked with Dr. Sarah Jayne Boulton, a Biomedical Sciences Researcher from the University of Newcastle with an interest in stress pathways and energy generation in cells. Together, they discusses food safety procedures – especially in terms of fermentation which “can be seen as a process of ‘spoiloing’ and stressed the accountability of maintaining, storing and distributing micro-organisms and microbial food/beverage items.”

Over the course of her residency, Sneha also visited BrewLab and learned how to sequence microbial DNA to generate precise for the library knowledge about which micro-organisms are present in samples.

In the meantime, Sneha spent a lot of her time at the Lab fermenting Egyptian Kombucha using hibiscus tea and experimenting with long term storage of yogurt cultures.

Sneha also benefitted from conversations with fellow Green Lab residents Pilar Bolumburu and Zoë Powell from Materiom. Sneha writes, “We had a ‘library’ to ‘library’ conversation including looking at the concept of a library, interfacing elements digitally, tool hacking to make infrastructure more accessible and less wasteful, and we also spoke about future ‘library’ to ‘library’ collaborations.”

We look forward to more updates from Sneha as her MICRO_FOOD library continues to expand! You can find out more about her work here.

Sneha plans on returning to Green Lab in Autumn 2019 to lead a workshop. Please drop us a line at grow@greenlab.org to register your interest.

 

 

How to mitigate agriculture’s contribution to climate change?

https://www.farminguk.com/images/News/48918_1.jpg

Image: www.farminguk.com

Our friends at the Green Alliance think tank just produced a new report that caught our attention: Cutting the climate impact of land use. It got us thinking on how we can mitigate the agricultural sector’s contribution to climate change.

Green Alliance highlighted how urgent transformation is in this sector: “action must be taken now to reduce emissions and lay the foundations for the longer term transformation required.” The report also looks at land use as an opportunity area: “in the often overlooked land use sector, the UK now has an unprecedented chance to set a clear course and accelerate the pace of change.”

Here are some (amongst many) of the interesting approaches to change agricultural practice proposed in the report:

  • Afforestation: Green Alliance estimates that we need to be planting at least 70,000 hectares of new woodland per year (that’s almost twice the area of Sheffield).
  • Diet: The trend towards healthier diets needs to be accelerated, reducing red meat and dairy consumption by at least 30 per cent by 2030.
  • Sequestering carbon: This can be done by focussing on agroforestry and the improvement of salt marshes, woodlands, peatlands and wetlands. Using more wood in construction, also provides long term storage for carbon sequestered in trees.
  • Bioenergy crops: Crops such as Miscanthus and short rotation coppice willow are low-cost and low-maintenance and can be used to make bioenergy.
  • Biochar: Similar to charcoal, biochar is formed by thermal decomposition in a limited oxygen environment. It can store carbon in the soil for extended periods while improving soil fertility and quality.
  • Manure management changes: Innovative techniques such as treating manure using anaerobic digestion can be effective.
  • Improving soil management: Measures include the controlled use of nitrogen fertilisers to match inputs to field conditions more closely; increased use of organic residues, such as livestock manures and digestate from the processing of food wastes and crops; and more cultivation of legumes, which fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce the need for fertilisers.”

And (if you’re not convinced already): “If we get it right, there are many benefits beyond reducing emissions. Many of the measures to decarbonise land use will also contribute to greater soil protection, improved water and soil quality, flood mitigation, biodiversity and recreational benefits, and they will support a more productive and resilient food system and greater societal wellbeing. UK farmers and land managers will be central agents in cutting emissions from land use and will also benefit from low carbon practices. But policy needs to support them through this transition, providing the incentives to innovate and adopt new measures, and ensuring that best practice is supported by consumers and supply chains.”

A good read. Find it here.