Into the future with mealworms, bacterial cellulose and fungi

Nadja Heinisch und Nadja Tata

By Nadja Heinisch und Nadja Tata
24.01.2020 | 6 minutes reading time

The innovation workshop FLORA FAUNA FUTURE shows explores in a self-experiment future possibilities with innovative materials from nature.

In cooperation with the Fiction Forum, an initiative of the Competence Centre of the Cultural and Creative Industries, the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin invited participants to the innovation workshop FLORA FAUNA FUTURE in October 2019. Creative professionals with a background in architecture, fashion, sound or food came together in the museum’s experimental field to work on materials and ideas from nature together with other stakeholders from different industries. The declared objective: to demonstrate and experience first-hand more environmentally friendly, locally producible and sustainable alternatives in the fields of architecture/construction, fashion, sound and food/food packaging.

Impressions of FLORA FAUNA FUTURE in October 2019 | Director & Editor: David Madry | Camera: Mantas Jockus | Producer: Uli Sailor

Experts from the cultural and creative industries and the natural sciences presented their research and experience in the production of innovative materials from nature in short impulse sessions. Among them were scientists from the museum who, for example, provided insights into spider silk as a potential material for the production of textiles (Dr. Jason Dunlop) or gave a talk on frog farms in Africa such as in Benin, where frogs are bred as a sustainable source of protein for the future (Dr. Mareike Petersen). Dr. Jana Hoffmann gave a presentation on the stable yet filigree architecture of brachiopod shells and Silke Voigt-Heucke explained the background of the nightingale song, which does not succumb to the sound of the ever louder city life. The workshop participants then became active in one of the four workshop spaces, in which the materials were not only made tangible in a self-experiment, but possible applications were also discussed in an open dialogue.


Innovation workshop FLORA FAUNA FUTURE in the experimental field of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, photo: Mina Gerngross
Innovation workshop FLORA FAUNA FUTURE in the experimental field of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, photo: Mina Gerngross

Workshop Food/Food Packaging

Jannis Kempkens, founder of the Plasticula project, which was created as part of his studies at the Weißensee School of Art, illustrated the potential of insects as suppliers of materials and energy using the example of mealworms and mealworm beetles. For this purpose, workshop participants prepared crispy chocolate cookies and tomato pesto from shock-frozen mealworms. Using the mealworm beetle as an example, Jannis also showed how a material can be obtained from the chitin of the carapace through various process stages. This material is visually and functionally similar to plastic but completely biodegradable.


Jannis Kempkens (centre) explains the possible uses of mealworms and mealworm beetles in the Food/Food Packaging workshop. Photos: Nadja Tata (MfN) and Mina Gerngross
Jannis Kempkens (centre) explains the possible uses of mealworms and mealworm beetles in the Food/Food Packaging workshop. Photos: Nadja Tata (MfN) and Mina Gerngross

Workshop architecture/construction

Maurizio Montalti, founder of Officina Corpuscoli and co-founder of Mogu, is dedicated to the production of innovative and natural biomaterials based on the use of fungal mycelium, thus combining design and biotechnology. In the Architecture/Construction workshop, participants were able to literally lend a hand and create their own “chipboard” from fungal mycelium, in which the mycelium acts as an adhesive and provides strength.


Maurizio Montalti gives insights into fungal mycelium as a basic material for naturally degradable building materials in the Architecture/Building Workshop. Photos: Mina Gerngross
Maurizio Montalti gives insights into fungal mycelium as a basic material for naturally degradable building materials in the Architecture/Building Workshop. Photos: Mina Gerngross

Workshop Fashion

Textile and material designer Lena Ganswindt, who intensively studied bacterial cellulose (BC) during her studies at the Weißensee Art College, showed how this “leather” is cultivated and processed based on Kombucha. Using fresh and dried samples of BC, participants were able to explore the different properties of the material. With the help of natural dyes such as blueberry and turmeric, the bacterial cellulose was further processed and individually dyed.


Lena Ganswindt lets participants in the Fashion workshop experiment with bacterial cellulose and natural dyes. Photos: Mina Gerngross
Lena Ganswindt lets participants in the Fashion workshop experiment with bacterial cellulose and natural dyes. Photos: Mina Gerngross

Workshop Sound

Together with Felipe Sanchez Luna, founder of KlingKlangKlong, an innovation studio for sound, music and interaction, this workshop sought answers to the following questions: How does our life influence urban soundscapes? How has the sound around us changed over the years? How much influence do cities have on the nature surrounding us? Based on complex song structure of the nightingale, the workshop created sound compositions based equally on birdsongs and sounds of urban landscapes, which were presented at the end of the event.


Photo: Felipe Sanchez Luna (bottom left) focuses on the nightingale song in the Sound Workshop, where participants create their own sound compositions. Photos: Mina Gerngross
Photo: Felipe Sanchez Luna (bottom left) focuses on the nightingale song in the Sound Workshop, where participants create their own sound compositions. Photos: Mina Gerngross

Guided tours through the workshop-relevant collections (food - beetles, fashion - mammalian skins, architecture - brachiopods and corals, sound - historic bird hall) topped off the combination of creative industry and science. Many thanks to our participant Julia N., who confirmed the success of FLORA FAUNA FUTURE with her words of praise: “The fusion of design and scientific perspectives from the Museum für Naturkunde really worked out well, released a completely different kind of energy, and immediately sparked ideas”.