Sunday, May 9, 2021

Next generation food machines and how Sensorica approaches food crisis

 This is still a draft (third version). Come back for the final version, you'll probably be surprised.


The irony is that when the proverbial S&!# hits the fan, supply chains are disrupted and some people die of starvation, while being surrounded by an abundance of local food sources. Our current economy is very well organized to maximize wealth generation, which means a balance between fulfilling desires and needs of the population, while making money. But at the same time, our economy is unsustainable and fragile. It relies on a web of centralized systems, designed during the industrial era, which are themselves fragile. If one of them fails, the others follow. For example, during the 2008 financial crisis people still needed to eat and farmers still possessed the land and the machines to produce food, but the global food market was greatly disrupted. In capitalism, the market is supposed to readjust to fulfill a new need, but that cannot happen fast enough when the economic infrastructure is affected by a crisis. In socialism, or planned economies, the Government is not well suited to deal with complex situations. Food supply chains can be disrupted because of a regional armed conflict, oil price fluctuations, financial system collapse, bad weather conditions, pandemic, to name just a few, without digressing into nuclear and asteroid collisions. The best way to deal with these situations is a mix of button-up and top-down approaches within a commons-based peer production framework.

Venezuela food crisis, fallout of a mismanaged economy
Store in Venezuela, country with the largest oil reserves.

In normal times, entire populations depended on staples produced by the industrial agriculture. These products are designed to concentrate a lot of nutrients and, in normal times, it makes economic sense to consume them. The paradox is that when access to these products is disrupted, people can starve while being surrounded by an abundance of food. Many indigenous eatable plants grow around us but we have forgotten how to prepare them. I live in Canada and the great majority of food products that are available in groceries are not indigenous. In times of crisis we eat what we find. Are we prepared to process local food sources?

Ciorbă de urzici. Reţetă de post. Este gata imediat şi e foarte gustoasă
Delicious Romanian nettle soup

Modern technology allows us to more efficiently extract and concentrate nutrients from indigenous plants that are not part of our diet in normal times, as they compete with modern agriculture products.

If one day nettles are the only remaining thing that we can eat we'll need time to learn how to prepare them. To get the equivalent in protein of a steak, one needs to eat a 25Kg stack of nettles. Obviously no one can have that in a single serving. In times of crisis, knowing how to make nettle soup is not enough. We need to learn how to extract and concentrate the protein, and how to cook a delicious meal much like a filly tofu dish. That requires learning time and specialized tools. If it is not in our culture to eat nettles, in normal times it is hard to convince people to learn how to prepare them or to invest in equipment to process them.

How to tap into the latent food capacity and be always prepared for rough times? The solution proposed by Greens for Good, an open venture nurtures within the Sensorica OVN, is a versatile food processor that in normal times can mill corn, extract oil from seeds, make tofu, make noodles and all sorts of other tings, while also being able to process eatable indigenous plants. On top of guaranteeing food security, this technology also makes food more sustainable by expanding our food sources, and by encouraging consumption of plant-based proteins instead of animal protein. This seams like a very ambitious plan, but we are not in uncharted territory.

In recent years, 3D printing has revolutionized fabrication. A 3D printer is a versatile technology that can come in the form of a desktop machine able to make toys, and can be easily scaled to a larger rig that can build an entire house in a single day. Almost anything that we can imagine, of any shape and practically of any type of material can be 3D printed. Sensoricans' plan for food processing is similar to what what 3D printing has done to fabrication.

3D printing was invented in the 80'. The Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) patent expired in 2009, and marked the beginning of the 3D revolution, with the open source hardware community swarming this technology. Sensorica's economic model builds on the open source mode of innovation, inheriting the same properties of rapid development and viral dissemination. But it adds an economic layer on top of the innovation model to ensure proper dissemination, cultural appropriation and adoption of the new technology, this increasing its impact.

The food processing equivalent of the 3D printer is an extruder. The most familiar representation is the meat grinder. The same design pattern is also used to mince meat, extract juice, extract oil, pattern (make pasta), grinde, and more recently to produce textured vegetableprotein for plant-based meat analogous.

The project was proposed by Joshua Pearce from Michigan Tech University. It is now composed of a diverse group of individuals and organizations (such as academic labs, NGOs, food processing equipment manufacturers, food producers and innovation intermediaries), spanning 5 continents. You can join them on Discord.
The idea of the extruder came from the work of Bruce Merlo, who made the connection between a green leaves protein extractor and the equipment used in textured vegetable protein (TVP). Unai Gaztelu from SMART Center Tanzania became very instrumental in guiding the development process close to the need of local communities in developing countries. Alexis Alonso helps conceptualizing the project. Sebastian Klemm from Proofing Future is wordsmithing the project and leads our outreach efforts. Make sure you talk to Mayssam Daaboul if you desire to join us and formalize a partnership.  

In the middle of May 2002, the project entered the design phase of the extruder, where open source hardware was remixed with scaled-down industrial solutions to build a device capable of executing two or three labor-intensive and repetitive food processing activities (grinding, oil extraction, etc.), and at the same time be capable of extracting and concentrating proteins from indigenous leafy biomass.  

Sketch of a generic extruder


In September 2022 the network focuses on the prototyping and testing of an open source decanter centrifuge, a critical component of the extruder, responsible for separating fluids and solids according to their density differentiation. 

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

eco2FEST – Week 2: Building Society from the Ground Up

It was an ambitious second week of eco2FEST with workshops and conferences revolving around four different themes: Public Policies, Governance, Habitation, and Urban Agriculture. A lot of important questions were raised as citizens, entrepreneurs, and government officials worked through them all to find collaborative solutions.
Even when no concrete solutions were proposed though, the discussions set the stage for a more focused framing of these themes in the future.

Public Policies

At their most basic, public policies are the intersection between what citizens ask for and what governments can provide. It is this constant flux from one side to the other that creates the common ground of how society is run. Finding a common ground that’s truly for the benefit of the greater good, however, is a different story. This has been the root cause for countless of political struggles since the dawn of civilization.
For any equilibrium to be achieved, there has to be a balance of energy or power on all sides. And that starts with trust and a willingness to collaborate. Governments need to make a greater effort to seek input from citizens impacted by proposed policies while citizens need to take initiative to engage in constructive dialogue with government officials. Only then can innovative public policies take shape.
During the Public Policies segment of eco2FEST, Guillaume Lavoie – professor at ENAP and former city councillor of Montreal – observed that citizens have been asking their elected officials the wrong question about innovation. Instead of just seeking their support for innovation, elected officials should be asked, “What is your level of tolerance for disruption?”
Historically, governments often favour stability while businesses mostly thrive on disruption. But for overall progress to happen in society, it depends on government’s ability to stomach change.
Businesses have always been a step ahead of governments not only because they embrace change, but also because they actively seek out public opinion. If governments want to keep up, they have to do the same and go a step further by establishing units or processes that provide future projections based on current socio-economic trends.
This will allow governments to at least proactively prepare for future growth rather than reacting too late to realities on the ground. It will result in more opportunities for governments to engage in timely discussions with the public.
Besides examining the role of government, eco2FEST participants also considered the other side of the equation: how can we empower citizens with the notion that they have the right to express their opinions on how society is run?
Participatory democracy was brought up several times as a potential way for people to get in the habit of working together with the government. Of course, it means that the government has to transition to that concept and introduce how it works early in the education system.
Once citizens start to participate more and governments have a better pulse on what the needs are, what’s the best way to use crowdsourced data effectively to implement public policies? This was another sticky point in the workshop discussions last week.
For example, there’s a massive amount of urban traffic data out there compiled by both public and private sectors. But it’s been difficult to design mobility models and transportation systems based on that data because every source wants to protect its data for different purposes. On top of all that, there are privacy issues that people are rightfully concerned about.
The question then turned to regulation, which is sometimes a waypoint of implementation. For that, Guillaume Lavoie recommended not to jump straight to regulations before the subject is fully understood – that would be worse than not regulating at all. “The goal is to have the least possible, to access as much as possible,” he said.


Public Policies naturally lead to Governance. How do you build the consensus and the principles everyone has agreed on during the development of public policies into a long-term governance system? In short, as Agathe Lehel – Projects Promoter of OuiShare Québec – so succinctly put it, “How do you make sure that [governance] culture persists over time?”
Technology was consistently proposed as a possible solution. Technology can facilitate the processing of governance processes because of its dynamic ability to provide real-time information and instantaneous feedback.
One of the most promising technological applications in governance comes in the form of smart contracts in blockchain. The potential of blockchain as a governance tool is so strong that it has been adopted by businesses and even governments such as Estonia’s digital republic.
Blockchain platforms are designed to evenly distribute the power of governance and direction that decisions take. In that sense, members of the platform are simultaneously users, investors, and stakeholders. All these members are brought together from different cultures and values. The issue is how we make it work and achieve consensus.
Another concern raised in the discussion was maintaining decentralization. What we want to avoid is the consolidation of power in any extreme and not knowing who actually holds the power.
In response to the governance concerns of blockchain, Pascal Ngo Chu – co-founder of EOS/Steem Québec – pointed to EOSIO as an example. It is a blockchain platform that introduces a governance model. A constitution can be created first, which all other application systems must follow. From there, a democratic system can be established with voting tools for people to make decisions.
At the end of the day though, it’s the individuals who form the hub of a blockchain network. Yes, government needs to be involved in supporting the system, but the grassroots level needs to first demonstrate that it works even in a rapidly evolving society. However the platform is designed, governance has to be ingrained yet remain flexible enough for new directions.
We also have to remember that the platform is not the solution – it is a tool for governance and transparency that works so long as the human connection is stable.


For all the talk about progress in society, it can’t go very far if the basic needs of the people aren’t met. That brings us to the theme of Habitation.
We’ve seen the steady rise of housing costs for years and it’s time we come up with creative solutions to combat that issue.
Many ideas were pitched at the eco2FEST workshops, including transitional use of vacant spaces. So rather than leaving undeveloped lots sitting empty, is there a way we can make use of them? The same goes for unoccupied buildings or infrastructure. What would a system that temporarily repurposes vacant spaces look like?
Housing cooperatives were also mentioned as proven working models, although everyone acknowledged that they do have some hurdles to overcome. These include setting up reliable conflict resolution systems as well as systems properly recognizing everyone’s specialties and contributions.
The most significant hurdle has to do with the public image of housing cooperatives. They are neither social housing nor places where everyone is expected to scrub the common floors together. Housing cooperatives are all about lowering the housing costs for their members. If that is what everyone ultimately wants, why is participation still so low?
It seems that housing cooperatives could do with more support from governments and more rebranding campaigns from the private sector.

Urban Agriculture and Food Sovereignty

Food is another basic need that needs to be addressed. And in an urban environment, it’s even more important that sustainable approaches are used.
It was fitting that communal food was served throughout eco2FEST, but especially so during the urban agriculture workshops. It ties in with the fact that it really does not require massive infrastructure to feed people.
What emerged from the discussions was the need for us to completely change our way of thinking when it comes to urban agriculture and food sovereignty. In a sense, we need to think big in small systems.
For instance, we can first change our concept of food consumption. Instead of consuming what we want, we can start by consuming what we want among what’s locally available. That would cut down on infrastructure being used to produce food for distant locations, along with all the transportation costs that come with it.
Douglas Jack, a sustainable community development expert, gave a presentation advocating people to take a 3D approach to agriculture. That involves considering the collaborative effect of plants occupying all height levels – from trees to fungi – that contribute to a healthier ecosystem. He also talked about various indigenous techniques for sustainable livelihood, the details of which he catalogued online for open-source sharing.
From his example as well as that of Jack SoRelle – who created the Plenty4All organization from scratch – there was a consensus that open-source sharing of agricultural techniques is an economically feasible way to establish grassroots-oriented solutions for communities all over the world.

As the second week of eco2FEST came to a close, it was apparent that there is a common thread that ran through these four themes: it all comes down to education.

It’s about learning how to let your voice be heard; it’s about teaching how to run an equitable society. It’s about learning how to live affordably together; it’s about teaching how to feed the world sustainably.

What inspired you the most from the conversations you’ve had last week at eco2FEST? What would you like to accomplish by the final week?

Winluck Wong is a freelance writer helping companies grow their businesses through blogging, web content writing, copywriting, and social media management. He gets excited about an eclectic mix of topics from business strategies and sustainable development to personal finance and life hacks. Follow his cheeky musings on Twitter and imagine how he can fit in your story on his website.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

eco2FEST - week 1: Collaboration in Motion

Last week marked the beginning of eco2FEST, a three-week journey to explore new forms of economy, sustainable open-source design, and more. Organized around nine themes, eco2FEST highlighted Mobility and Collaborative Economy as the first themes of the week.


eco2FEST was aptly jumpstarted with the first theme, Mobility. Progress has always traveled on the
back of our ability to transfer ideas, resources, and people over great distances in the shortest amount
of time possible. The need for this ability to be efficient has become more pronounced in the growing
urbanization of society.

As ecosystems of urban jungles continue to spread, mobility is what will preserve their delicate balance and keep them thriving. Without mobility as the primary consideration in infrastructure design, cities run the risk of a drawn-out but inevitable decay.

It’s a well-recognized issue and many cities throughout the world have ventured ahead with innovative models of mobility. Take Barcelona and the Bicing program, for instance; London and its GATEway project; or Guangzhou’s Bus Rapid Transit system.

And we can do the same here. Montreal is the ideal city for mobility innovation and it’s evident when
the city hosted the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress last year. The world came to us last year and this year, we’re demonstrating through eco2FEST that we’re ready to bring our ingenuity to the world.

The official launch of eco2FEST last week inspired a lot of frank discussions about the future of mobility in Montreal. Mobility entrepreneurs like Eva Coop and OuiHop’ met with local residents as well as citizen groups like Trainsparence. Together, this open forum invited everyone to give their input on major mobility issues such as the “last mile” problem, bike-integration solutions, and even specific issues such as mobility challenges in Verdun.

It is a promising start to eco2FEST. Jean-François Parenteau, the Mayor of Verdun, mentioned at the
eco2FEST press conference last Tuesday that he and his elected officials wanted the borough to shine
when it comes to a collaborative economy. It captured the intent of eco2FEST perfectly. This is our moment to take the lead by getting the private and public sectors together to collaborate on inclusive solutions that improve the day-to-day lives of everyone.

Collaborative Economy

As the conversation moved from Mobility to the second theme, Collaborative Economy, the ideas continued to flow. Although the participants in the workshops and roundtables were from different backgrounds, they all found common ground with these two statements:

  1. Access to resources can be very difficult for individuals; collaborative workspaces can meet this requirement as well as create opportunities and accessibility for entrepreneurs;
  2. Collaborative economy adds social and economic benefits within society.

Moreover, certain words came up again and again that showed how strongly they resonated with
everyone: inclusionparticipateequitygrowth, and empowerment. All these are values that a
collaborative economy strives toward.

It means less constraints from a traditional workplace and less emphasis on profit before all else. It
means more innovation and ecological results driven for and by the community. Above all, it means
genuine collaboration that goes beyond the family unit and reaches every facet of society.

What’s striking about the first week at eco2FEST was how deeply engaged all the participants were in the discussions that took place. Everyone had something of value to contribute and it’s all these ideas in aggregate that will make a difference as we co-build the society of tomorrow.

All this came out of just the first week. Imagine what we can accomplish next. Find out what’s
happening this week at eco2FEST on our schedule and participate!

What really spoke to you during the first week of eco2FEST? What would you like to see done differently in the upcoming workshops and conferences?

Winluck Wong is a freelance writer helping companies grow their businesses through blogging, web content writing, copywriting, and social media management. He gets excited about an eclectic mix of topics from business strategies and sustainable development to personal finance and life hacks. Follow his cheeky musings on Twitter and imagine how he can fit in your story on his website.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Pour une mobilité en réseau,
inclusive et soutenable

Actuellement, nos villes et nos territoires font face à de nombreux défis de mobilité, ce qui accélère l'innovation basée sur de nouvelles technologies, dans un cadre d’un développement durable. La démocratisation de l’internet permet l'intégration des offres de transports publics et privés qu’imposent les nouveaux besoins des citoyens modernes, et surtout de la nouvelle population jeune et très bien connectée. Le numérique et les systèmes intelligents engagent les citoyens dans la production et l’utilisation de services publics de plus en plus complexes. Également, les pratiques collaboratives dans l’espace publique sont en croissance dans nos villes modernes.

En réponse à ses tendances, une nouvelle approche a la mobilite a été proposée: la mobilité en réseau (OuiShare et Chronos). Cette approche répond aux besoins d’une mobilité de demain, car les moyens de transport du futur proche seront partagés, écologiques et seront nécessairement conçus en réseau. Cette transformation bouleverse l’aménagement urbain, la gouvernance et les services traditionnels associés à l’écosystème de mobilité. Pour y faire face, nous devons faire appel à l’innovation ouverte, faire preuve d’inclusivité et prendre en compte la proximité.

La mobilité en réseau amène la société d'aujourd'hui à faire face au besoin d’une mobilité à une échelle d’approche plus large. Nous faisons appel au cadre théorique de l’écologie du paysage (Carl Troll, 1939), qui a été traditionnellement utilisé pour l’analyse spatiale à grande échelle. Étymologiquement, le mot paysage réfère à l’agencement des traits, des caractères et des formes d’une portion de l’espace terrestre. Donc, le paysage est utilisé dans la géographie et l’écologie ou il peut jouer un rôle de medium entre la nature et la société, à l’échelle supérieure de l’écosystème.  (Bertrand, 1975; Baudry & Burel 1999). Le paysage est alors perçu comme un système d’un ensemble d’éléments interconnectés soit un réseau.

Ceci dit, la mobilité est de plus en plus comprise en termes de création de liens, d’opportunités et de synergies, plutôt qu’en terme de pure franchissement de distances. Autrement dit, la  reliance devient la valeur nouvelle de la mobilité, (Amar, 2010). Dans ce scénario de la mobilité, qui est pensé à travers le prisme de l’Écologie du paysage,  l’innovation ouverte et l’ecodesign deviennent des outils essentiels pour trouver des nouvelles solutions. Ces méthodologies s’appliquent bien à une situation complexe ainsi que transdisciplinaire et produisent des résultats favorisant des valeurs environnementales.
Les “patches” / zonage. Arrangement spatial, ou patron paysager, peut se décomposer en tâches homogènes (Baudry & Burel 1999). Les “patches” jouent différents rôles: élément d’orientation, élément clé (donne accès à), dynamiseur (engendre des actions, vivre une expérience), ou hub de rencontre (par exemple permet la pause pour découvrir le quartier).
La Matrice. Constitue l’ensemble dominant du paysage qui englobe les “patches”. Elle peut être par exemple une matrice urbaine, rurale ou périurbaine. De façon représentative, elle peut aussi être une matrice culturelle, une distribution géographique des traditions.
Les Corridors. Sont des éléments linéaires dont l’ensemble forme un réseau lineal à travers la matrice, permettant ainsi de relier certains ‘’patches’’ entre elles, qui ont des fonctions importantes. Nous pouvons les voir comme des connecteurs d’idées, d’information, de connaissances ou comme des objets IoT (‘’Internet of Things’’). Ils assurent la connectivité entre les éléments.

Un bon exemple de corridor à Montréal est la nouvelle Promenade Fleuve-Montagne, qui crée un lien piéton entre le fleuve Saint-Laurent, au sud, et le Mont Royal, au nord, comme occasion de rencontres, lieu de pause, passages verts.

Métapopulation. Se caractérise par des mécanismes d’interaction entre groupes de populations séparés spatialement, reliées par multiples éléments (Gilpin & Hanski, 1991). Pour la mobilité en réseau, ces éléments interreliés peuvent être des connecteurs des populations au niveau ethnique, des âges, ou genres, qui peuvent réduit l’isolement géographique.

Métacommunauté. Se caractérise par des mécanismes d’interaction entre communautés locales, séparées spatialement, mais reliées par multiples éléments. (Levins, 1969). Le concept de la mertacommunauté, au niveau de mobilité en réseau, peut jouer un rôle de connecteur des arrondissements, des savoirs, des goûts et préférences, des intérêts. (Levins, 1969)

Théorie de la percolation. S’intéresse au processus physique de flux d’information à travers un réseau. Elle est appliquée par exemple pour accélérer le mouvements des objets (De Gennes, 1990): La Remise est, par exemple, une coopérative de solidarité à but non lucratif à Montréal, qui entrepose des outils d’usage commun (cuisine, menuiserie, artisanat, mécanique, jardinage, électricité, etc.), mis à la disposition de ses membres sous forme de prêts. Ce partage crée des liens sociaux en plus de diminuer le gaspillage.

Le Patches / zonage
La Matrice
Ces concepts d’écologie du paysage peuvent être utilisés pour analyser la ville de Montréal et sa mobilité, faisant appel à des mobiliers urbains, des systèmes numériques et interactifs.


Différents mobiliers urbains autonomes en énergie ont été déjà utilisés dans le but d’une mobilité en réseau. Tel est le cas des abris pour les voitures ou vélos munis de panneaux photovoltaïques, ou des abribus pour les utilisateurs du transport en commun offrant une connectivité WiFi et des informations locales. Ainsi, les mobiliers urbains sont des créatures dans l’écologie du paysage urbain, avec un potentiel pour devenir des éléments clés ou des stations, offrant différentes utilités: hubs de rencontres, expositions artistiques, expériences interactives, bornes informatives ou de connexions. Ces stations peuvent aussi être reliées les unes aux autres.

Le mobilier urbain Matrioshka, dessiné par Quatorze, est un des exemples de mobilier urbain autonome en énergie, qui est maintenant en voie de commercialisation à Montréal. La Matrioshka offre la possibilité de recharger des appareils portables électroniques et de se connecter à l’Internet. Ce mobilier a été enrichi en lui ajoutant d’autres systèmes électroniques: écran, système de son, capteurs de présence et de mouvement, panneaux interactives, etc. Ces fonctionnalités permettent au mobilier d’être un espace convivial et un hub de convergence, d’occupation temporelle et événementielle. La Matrioshka peut aussi jouer un rôle éducatif, pour sensibiliser la population à la production de l’énergie renouvelable et aux enjeux environnementaux.
La Matrioshka a déjà été utilisée comme une station de travail mobile, un mobilier sonore et visuel éducatif et aussi comme élément artistique ou informatif. Maintenant, le grand défi est de passer d’une conception de Matrioshka comme mobilier urbain connecté, agissant au niveau local, à un objet ayant un rôle dans la mobilité en réseau.
Dans cet objectif, l'équipe Matrioshka propose une expérience de création avec une approche écodesign reliée à la mobilité, dans le cadre de la Foire Écosphère et de l'événement Eco2Fest de Ouishare au Vieux Port de Montréal, le 12 et 13 Août. Le but de l’activité est d’écoconcevoir de nouveaux usages et fonctionnalités du mobilier urbain Matrioshka, dans différentes scénarios de mobilité à Montréal, dans un contexte de mobilité en réseau. Pour faciliter le processus d’écodesign, les participants auront une session éducative portant sur des concepts reliés à l’écologie du paysage, ainsi que sur les technologies durables. Ensuite, ils travailleront à partir d’un parcours de mobilité qui contient des stations Matrioshka, dans des scénarios de mobilité active, covoiturage et transmodalité. Ce sera une excellente opportunité de participer dans un exercice d'écodesign, pour apprendre, pour s’amuser et pour rencontrer des gens intéressés à cette thématique. N’hésitez pas à participer et jouir de cette superbe experience!

Pour participer à cet événement cliquez ici.

Pour plus d’information sur le projet Matrioshka cliquez ici.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

SENSORICA’s footprint in Open Science

SENSORICA is presenting at GOSH 2017 in Santiago, Chile. This is a short document that we prepared for this conference. See more of our involvement here.