Why bio- anything anyway?

Because technology generates possibilities; expectations move on; what was good enough isn’t any more. In 1908, Henry Ford’s customers got, not the faster horse Ford said they expected, but the Model T, cheap and effective, private transport taken for granted in a global social and economic revolution.

Now, a revolution in plant derived materials and power: vehicles, turbine blades, buildings and clothes made from grass, stinging nettles, sugar cane, wool, wood, waste paper, cashew nut shells and carrots; electric power stored in woven cloth, fruit, veg and algal slime in vehicles, bridges and other structures; fuel from plants and plant waste. Benign bacteria – shewanella oneidensis – grow metal without polluting industrial processes and clean up metal pollution from industrial waste. Bugs feeding in a bath of sugar grow fabrics, quiet, clean and natural as a green field, replacing industrial machinary.

Driving development is concern for, firstly, the stuff we dig up, laid down millenia ago, that won’t come back, and secondly, choking and cooking life, releasing CO2 stored in the earth for millenia. Anthropogenic global warming still has sceptics, but whatever, the galloping consumption of non-renewable materials and pumping CO2 is scary. Whatever the detail of the climate debate, the shift from carbon emitting, resource destructive, industry to negative carbon, renewable resource, is positive.

Biebuyck Technologies develops applications for plant derived materials. Our first products are motorcycles, electric powered, made from bio composite, produced in an under performing rural economy, providing clean private transport and industry as drivers of economic change.

Four motorcycle manufacturers, in China and India, dominate the global bike market. Four or more wheel vehicle manufacture is slightly more dispersed: of the annual global total of about 70 million vehicles, 20 million are made in China, Toyota, GM and Volkswagen account for near 30 million, and the next six for most of the rest.

Bio material and fuel production can be global industrial, like current vehicle and petroleum manufacture. Mass production has a key place in our enterprise. But we want to impact the distribution of power and wealth. To do that, Biebuyck Technologies develop small scale, labour intensive, semi-skilled, production in rural areas, especially in the Global South. There are difficult issues of governance, globalisation and power, but we aim, over time, to create networks of independent artisans, free from the World Bank and other organs of the Anglo- Saxon hegemony and post colonial successors in BRIC and elsewhere. Toyota developed co-operative systems of internal, customer and supplier relations. Germany has national co-determination systems of industrial management. These systems compete strongly in the global market. So shall we, with systems of fair distribution.

The important advance is not just new tech, perhaps to create new forms of oppression. The important advance is a more equal global society, better for everyone, rich or poor, for the reasons argued in “The Spirit Level” – www.equalitytrust.org.uk. Our contribution to social and technical change is local production from local feedstocks with the three farmer system:

• farmer 1 grows the plant feedstocks – grass, crop waste, wood and other stuff that doesn’t compete with food;
• farmer 2 processes the feedstocks, creating materials and fuel, using small scale tech developed in combat by the US Army and biosynthetic nutrient baths;
• farmer 3 turns the materials into products – building materials, motorbikes, clothes, almost anything that sells.

Tony Biebuyck

Director,
Biebuyck Technologies Limited and Technolegau Cymru Cyfyngedig

October 2014.