Bioeconomy is one focus in Fraunhofer LO Brazil by combining economy and sustainability
We have been living beyond our means for quite a while. The use of natural resources such as water, soil or raw materials exceeds the earth's ability for regeneration. The growing world population, climate change and the decline in biodiversity are leading to an ever-faster downward spiral: It is high time for fundamental change. The bioeconomy aims to harmonize the economy and ecology through bio-based production, working and living concepts. Scientists at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft explore biological systems and combine their findings with imaginative technologies to develop pioneering innovations for a sustainable economy. Follow bellow the main areas focus to be improved by bioeconomy in Brazil:
A balanced diet plays a key role in our health. But what is the most sustainable way to produce nutritional foods – particularly when there is less and less land and a growing global population? The bioeconomy offers numerous opportunities, including the exploitation of new climate-friendly sources of protein and the production of valuable dietary supplements made from macroalgae, which thrive without fertilizer, freshwater and energy.
Artificial fertilizers, chemical-based pesticides and the increased use of machines and technical processes have significantly boosted agricultural yields over the decades. While it took one farmer to feed ten people after World War II, the yield of one farmer can now supply 135 people, a transition that has more than left its mark on the ecosystem. Biodiversity is on the decline, pesticide residues in food and water are a major problem, and the ecological balance has been destroyed. Fraunhofer researchers are working on making agriculture more sustainable.
In what way can new materials be developed that are just as good as existing ones, but can be sustainably produced and disposed of? The bioeconomy offers plenty of potential here. For example, researchers are working on reusable and compostable packaging and natural materials that could replace carbon fibers.
Extracting medicines from plants and microorganisms is nothing new – one prominent example is insulin. But there is still much more potential to be exploited: for example, modern biotechnology offers efficient treatment options for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is impossible to imagine therapy for illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune diseases without biopharmaceuticals. Living microorganisms and cells are used as “mini factories” for the production of active ingredients.
Humans and animals require a healthy environment. But things look much different in reality: plastic waste is polluting the oceans and killing animals, while climate change with its scorching summers in recent years has brought about prolonged drought and devastating fires. The aim of the bioeconomy is to help protect the environment and promote a sustainable economy, by replacing petroleum, for example in the chemical industry, responding to water scarcity and recycling plastics over and over again rather than throwing them away.
Fossil fuels are increasingly being replaced with renewable energies, which are energies sourced from wind, sun and biomass, in a desperate attempt to achieve climate goals. But wind and solar energy is inconsistent and tends to fluctuate, making solutions for exploiting excess energy a must. In addition to sun and wind, biomass is also an important pillar in the energy mix of the future.