Examples and references of sustainability consulting & innovation consulting
By “clicking” on the respective headline you will receive more detailed information about our work in the field of analysis.
Buckwheat from Bhutan
Bhutan has a high biodiversity of buckwheat, a gluten-free, protein-rich fruit. It is undemanding and its cultivation causes no environmental damage – unlike rice. In the highlands of the Himalayas, buckwheat is a staple food and has an ancient cultivation tradition.
However, the small-scale cultivation in the mountains must be organised through intelligent logistics and professional quality management in such a way that export is possible. We advised a major German food producer on the potential that could be offered by economic cooperation with farmers in Bhutan, leaving as much added value as possible locally.
The future of soap
We all use surfactants on a daily basis – and yet there is an enormous industry behind the supposedly everyday, sometimes with frightening effects on the environment and people. Most of the eco-soaps currently use palm oil as a basis – a raw material for whose plantations even the last primeval forests of Indonesia are threatened with destruction.
Meanwhile there are many exciting alternatives. From urea to d-limonene (an essential oil from citrus peels), we have examined various methods and products and calculated their environmental impact. The entire value chain of each raw material was taken into account. The life cycle analysis shows clear favourites that are nevertheless economically competitive – because only then are they real game changers.
Wood instead of oil
“Wood instead of oil” or “renewable plastics” are the leitmotifs of this analysis for the wood industry in Brandenburg. A holistic use of wood resources is to be achieved by means of staged process technology. The advantage of a lignocellulose-based biorefinery regime is the relatively low price of the raw material wood and the large potential product diversity. For example, ethanol, which can be used both as an additive to fuels and for the production of novel plastics (polyethylene and polyvinyl acetates). Technical approaches to isolate ethene from wood pyrolysis gas have so far been investigated and have produced promising results.
Our material flow analysis shows the wide range of possible products that can be obtained for industry by splitting wood into its chemical components. Wood/biomass pyrolysis provides an alternative technology to the conventional production of numerous chemicals from crude oil.
Energy as a motor of regional development
The goal for our customer in Brandenburg was to create a municipal energy concept. For this purpose, existing resources (material flows) were recorded, primarily from the areas of energy supply, energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Intensive moderation resulted in a model of which goals can be pursued and which scenarios can be achieved in the future. In cooperation with the local people, the identified solutions were played through in order to make an initial prioritisation.
However, energy is also always an economic motor. Regional development projects aim to support a region or city in implementing innovative economic new concepts. Our focus is on:
- an entrepreneurial approach for new sustainable solutions in rural areas
- Stimulating the economy by deepening value chains
- Use existing resources & waste streams to generate multiple incomes
- the solution of specific challenges of the region.
Our goal is to involve companies and actors from the region in the implementation. Our holistic, integrated approach aims to establish overarching clusters of new companies and initiatives that reinforce each other. For this process, we identify potential and seek solutions that at best address several problems within the system – always taking into account the overall situation and the specifics of the location.
Read four examples of systems design along the lines of the Cascading Economy.
Vortex the future of the washing machine
Vortexes have the ability to drastically increase the efficiency of processing liquid and viscous materials. Vortex movements could completely replace chemicals and membranes. The power of vortices lies in the calculability of physical laws. According to the laws of nature, air molecules and solids are pulled into the centre and then sucked out through the centre. The only energy source for this is gravity.
For various customer applications, our development engineers first transferred their observations into a mathematical model and then developed a simple machine to simulate the movements of water in a vortex. A first prototype was made of titanium using a 3D printer.
Business in a Box
There is no art to developing clean-tech business models for modern industrialized countries. A really exciting challenge is to discover simple technologies and think them through in such a way that they are affordable for the majority of people on our planet, while at the same time creating local value and jobs.
Business in a Box has identified a triad of elements that, as a whole urban farming concept, can be an important building block in the fight against malnutrition. Mushrooms are grown on organic waste to provide protein and B12, even in case of failed harvests. Small greenhouses make it possible to grow vegetables and fish in confined spaces. Diluted urine is used as fertilizer, as well as composted excrements – both come from separation toilets, which are emptied by service providers and maintained if necessary. Simple (construction) instructions are available for all three, enabling people to work with locally available materials.
Cascading Economy Center
The Cascading Economy Center concept was developed as a benchmark for health and environment in inner-city construction, where innovation and creativity are celebrated, consumption and joie de vivre are promoted. This vibrant building is designed to attract industrial and professional visitors who want to experience how the best for the environment can be combined with health and competitive demands from leading investors.
Through a mix of technologies, this building creates a quality work environment that motivates employees and inspires visitors, setting new standards of productivity. This benchmark, inspired by a range of nature’s solutions, builds on dozens of technological breakthroughs already implemented in every corner of the world, but here for the first time integrated under one roof in an industrial system.
When citizens become entrepreneurs
Change succeeds best when it starts with the people it affects – and when these people are involved in the business. Whether as consumers or citizens, people are increasingly taking the sceptre into their own hands. That is why we have already developed business models on several occasions in which citizens become entrepreneurs.
In Lower Saxony, for example, a public limited company has been set up that uses only local money to manage local projects – and exceeds the one million mark in the process. As management boards, supervisory boards and shareholders, citizens take responsibility for the sustainable economic development of their region.
In Brandenburg, a completely different example: a foundation ensures that the many small projects that arise within a community are bundled as special purpose vehicles under its roof. Since the foundation promotes local charitable causes, everyone benefits – even those who do not have the capital to become shareholders. This increases the acceptance of projects that are otherwise often hastily rejected.
Here you can find more details about some of our implemented projects.
Urban Farming 2.0 - the future of nutrition in the city
With TopFarmers StartUp, we achieve that food is produced close to the consumer – and that fish (proteins), vegetables and tropical fruits are an important component in a recirculation system to shape the agriculture of the future in polyculture.
The design principles are based on observations of nature: the aim is to consciously imitate ecosystems. The interrelationship of bacteria, algae, fungi, animals and plants is used – also called “The Five Kingdoms of Nature”. This method distinguishes TopFarmers significantly from conventional systems, as it does not specialize in one species or group of plants, but simulates the balance of nature through high biodiversity and produces a healthy mix of food. After a three-year pilot phase, the market entry was successfully managed – with a powerful team and enthusiastic first customers.
Mushrooms on coffee grounds - proteins for the world
Coffee is the second largest commodity in the world, but only 0.2% of coffee beans end up in the cup, 99.8% end up in the trash. A small group of entrepreneurs founded Chidos Mushrooms in 2010 to contribute to healthy nutrition, the recycling of supposed waste and the fight against poverty and hunger.
The business concept is based on a specially developed and patented mushroom cultivation method to make coffee residues usable for mushroom cultivation. Selected development projects are supported with the profits from sustainable activities. The constant adaptation of the product portfolio to the market and the further development of the business model takes the form of continuous innovation support.
When shit turns to gold
Within the framework of a regional development project in Lower Saxony we are realising an innovative implementation project. A biogas plant based on 100% liquid manure will be built, whose waste heat will be used for fish farming. The input material liquid manure is already separated on the cooperating farms and later processed into fertilizer in a further process.
In this system, various products are created and marketed, and 100% of the energy (heat and electricity) is used. In addition, no waste is produced. The environment and groundwater are relieved of nitrate and CO2 is reduced. This is where the innovation approach of the Cascading Economy comes into play, which acts according to the principle: “Nature knows no waste”. Such a plant system as a systemic overall concept has never before been implemented in Germany.
Get more out of the sun
For the European market launch, the aim was to create the conditions for solar energy to become a significant source of energy for our world. The key to this was to offer the market solar energy at a price per kWh that is so low that solar energy becomes a natural part of the “energy mix” – without any subsidies. This is exactly what the technology can contribute to. In addition to several years of support during the market launch, the company has been able to attract several investors, who have made decisive progress in the expansion of production capacities up to the installation of the first demonstration plants in Germany.