Mind & Matter


Green Gold

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Azolla, detail. Photo: Erik Sjödin.


The 2007 biofuels fiasco resulted when the demand for corn-based ethanol came in direct conflict with other needs, such as food. Since then, scientists have been particularly focused on developing biofuels and bioplastics from inedible sources like switchgrass in order to avoid this conflict.

Another approach is to reconsider our edible resources themselves. A search for a rapidly renewable foodstuff has drawn attention to azolla, a fast-growing, edible aquatic fern with a high nutritional value. Azolla's ability to fix nitrogen and double its biomass in mere days makes it a good candidate for polycultural farming practices as well as space missions. It has also attracted the interest of Swedish artist Erik Sjödin, who calls it "the fast food of the future" and a “green gold mine.” Sjodin's Super Meal project, which explores azolla's potential as a more sustainable foodstuff as well as a future biofuel, is now on display at Stockholm's Färgfabriken contemporary art and architecture center.



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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.