The Three Biomimicry Examples that Teach You (almost) Everything you Need to Know

biomimicry examples May 02, 2024

We’ve all been there - standing across from a friend or colleague, trying to explain the genius of biomimicry. It’s very hard to explain why something so simple can be so … genius. 

We’ve all heard about Velcro, Leonardo's flying machine and the Shinkansen Bullet Train inspired by the Kingfisher's Beak. (side note - if you haven’t - see these leading biomimicry examples).

What I’ve found when explaining biomimicry - it’s (really) important to understand the function and the context of your explanation (biomimicry is also all about Function and Context): 

  • The Function - What (action) are you looking to achieve?
    E.g. inspire, convince, educate, etc. 
  • The Context: What does the individual already know about biomimicry? What industry does she or he work in? How might biomimicry relate to them?

For a biomimicry example to land and be understood, it needs to be (somewhat) familiar, tangible and hold a unique story involving a problem-solution approach. 

Here are three examples that you can use to elevate your understanding of biomimicry, and explain the concept of nature-inspired innovation better too.

Minimizing Food Waste with Greenpod Labs

The Challenge: I bet you (like me) cannot stand wasting food. Though we might all agree it's an important problem... food waste is a problem that persists. Just in India alone, 40% of fresh produce is lost before it reaches the consumer. Globally it’s about the same ๐Ÿคฏ

The Function: Minimize food waste / keep fruits and vegetables fresher, for longer.
The Context: Fresh produce in transit ripens too early and then rots, as India’s cold chain storage isn’t well developed. 

The discovery: Deepak Rajmohan and his team studied how plants communicate with each other, and speak nature's language. When a pre-harvested plant gets impacted / attacked, it can communicate to other neighboring plants via volatile emissions, telling the other plants to slow their ripening. This biological language is what GreenPod Labs learnt to speak, to extend the shelf-life of their plants.

The Solution: Greenpod Labs has created bio-inspired packaging sachets that mimic the built-in defense mechanisms within specific fruits or vegetables to slow down the ripening rate and minimize microbial growth. These are called plant-based volatiles, and the right formulation reduces the need for cold storage and cold supply chains.

The Lessons: 

  • It doesn’t have to look like nature, to be biomimicry.
  • Biomimicry is so much more than copying nature at the FORM level.
  • Biomimicry or nature-inspired innovation is often hiding in plain sight. 
  • Biomimicry often starts with a challenge, understanding the function and context.
  • Biology is unbelievably cool… Plants speaking to other plants!?!

๐Ÿ‰ Inspired by: Fruit and vegetables built-in defense mechanisms
๐Ÿ“ Where: India
๐ŸŽฏ Nature-inspired Innovation / Function: Bio-inspired packaging sachets, protect from microbial growth, use life-friendly chemistry
โœ๏ธ Biomimicry Company: Greenpod Labs

If you wish to dive deeper, we wrote this article, titled Biomimicry Examples in Action: Minimizing Food Waste with GreenPod Labs. It’s berry, berry cool ; )

Nature-inspired architecture - The BUGA Fibre Pavilion

Sometimes, we just need to experiment and play to push the boundaries of what’s (architecturally) possible. The University of Stuttgart took it upon themselves to create the BUGA Fibre Pavilion.

The Challenge: Create a highly effective and exceptionally lightweight structure, built with additive manufacturing.

The Solution: The BUGA Fibre Pavilion offers an audacious architectural experience and a glimpse of future construction.

The BUGA Fibre Pavilion segments are built by two robots, the University of Stuttgart developed filament winding robots, each placing fibrous filaments in between two rotating scaffolds. In this approach, it’s X5 lighter than a conventional steel structure. Using a form of additive manufacturing, there is no need for a mould or core, and therefore no production waste or material offcuts. 

The fact that a single component of the pavilion can take on the weight of 15 cars speaks for itself. As for the inspiration behind the idea, the team points to load-bearing structures in biology, most of which are made of fibres such as cellulose, chitin or collagen. 

Weighing only 7.6 kilograms per square meter, it is exceptionally lightweight, approximately five times lighter than a more conventional steel structure. 

Biomimetic design isn’t just beautiful, it’s also resource efficient.

Massive materials savings:

  • This design is 5 times lighter than a conventional steel structure
  • Additive manufacturing means that there is no need for a mould or core, and therefore no production waste or material offcuts.
  • Weighing only 7.6 kilograms per square meter, it is exceptionally lightweight, approximately five times lighter than a more conventional steel structure. 
  • Lightweight ≠ weak: A single component of the pavilion can hold the weight of 15 cars!

The details: Building upon many years of biomimetic research in architecture at the Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart - this pavilion covers a floor area of around 400 square meters and achieves a free span of more than 23 meters. It is enclosed by a fully transparent, mechanically pre-stressed membrane. The primary load bearing structure is made from 60 bespoke fiber composite components only. 

Lessons Learnt:

  • Biomimicry can push the boundaries of architecture in weird and wonderful ways
  • The building blocks of nature (cellulose, chitin or collagen) are structurally sound and with the advent of 3D printing, this unlocks new biomimetic designs. 
  • This is yet another great example of multidisciplinary approach to design - where architects, structural engineers, and robotic fabrication overlap.


๐ŸŒพ Biomimicry Building: BUGA Fibre Pavilion - The National Garden Show (BUGA)โ โ 
๐Ÿชฒ Inspired by: Biological load-bearing structures & Beetle Wingsโ โ 
๐Ÿ“ Where: Heilbronn, Germanyโ โ 
๐ŸŽฏ Innovation / Function: Fibre composite, lightweight construction, resource-efficient
โœ๏ธ Designer: University of Stuttgart

Innovation par excellence!

Rethinking Carpets with Interface

Interface stands as the golden child (or golden client) of biomimicry. Ray Anderson’ name - the founder of Interface - is still heard in the halls of biomimicry, with his foundation sponsoring the Ray of Hope Prize.

Interface sells carpets. In 1999, Interface ran their first biomimicry workshop with their InterfaceFLOR department, resulting in Entropy® tiles that became a top selling carpet style, doubling InterfaceFLOR’s business.

The beauty of this example is they mimicked biomimicry on three levels:

Form - The visual design on the carpets embrace biophilia, inspired by the randomness of leaves carpeting the forest floor. This randomness means that the modular carpet tiles can be individually replaced and laid in any orientation.

Process - Because Entropy® tiles use gradations of multiple color palettes, they are said to have mergeable dye lots, meaning that yarn colors don’t have to match perfectly to be used in the same product. (Bonus points: Interface created self-adhesive patches called Tac-Tiles®, inspired by gecko’s feet, which use force rather than chemistry to adhere the carpet to the floor – eliminating the need for the toxic chemistry typically associated with carpet glues!) 

System - The design of the carpet tiles means less production waste, since they can be individually replaced and mismatched colors no longer need to be discarded or sold in discounted products. The modular design extends the life of the carpet, allowing localized stains, damage or wear to be easily removed without replacing the entire carpet and carting it to the landfill. 

The Lessons

  • Time spent in nature can reveal business-altering insights
  • Doing Biomimicry at all 3 levels requires a range of skill sets
  • Collaboration is key to a successful project. It’s also more fun.
  • When biomimicry is done right, it covers the form, process and system levels.
  • Biomimicry is well suited to organisations who take their sustainability journey seriously
  • Financial success isn’t separate, or mutually exclusive from sustainability success 

๐Ÿชฒ Inspired by: Forest floor / the organized chaos of nature’s ground coverings
๐Ÿ“ Where: Georgia, USA
๐ŸŽฏ Nature-inspired Innovation / Function: Revolutionizing the carpet tile industry
โœ๏ธ Biomimicry Company: Interface

“The collaboration…may have been one of the best things of the whole project.”
– David Oakey, Researcher

This award-winning global carpet manufacturer now has annual sales exceeding $1.1 billion USD… is the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet tiles … and now a recognised industry leader in sustainable business practices. Well played!

Thanks for reading - if this inspired you - share this article with a friend.

May we all never stop learning, and remember to Carpe(t) Diem… and seize the day.

Wild regards
Alistair, Biomimicry Practitioner


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