Biomimicry has already generated many new technologies inspired by nature. Is there something that we can take away from it for the design of animal feed solutions for sustainable animal nutrition?
What is biomimicry?
Biomimicry, or biomimetics, is the study of nature and leveraging solutions that have evolved in nature to innovate and solve problems for the benefit of humans. So essentially it is about piggy backing on nature or emulating what has already been proven by nature to work and to be sustainable throughout time.
Biomimicry is thought of as a field with potential to bring answers to many different disciplines, including medicine, architecture, agriculture, industry. It can pretty much apply to all sectors. Examples for innovations stemming from the application of biomimicry are architectural designs with improved thermoregulation inspired by termite mounds, robotics inspired by motor mechanisms of insects or velcro, which is derived from the observation of hooks implemented by certain plants that stick to animal coats. Aircraft engineers are inspired by birds and sharks to design lighter and more fuel-efficient aircrafts.
Repurposing nature’s best ideas to solve human challenges
Advantages of applying biomimicry to innovation and design
The field of biomimicry has experienced significant growth in recent years and has been popularized by Janine Benyus. It is now a tool to accelerate innovation for small and large companies.
Biomimicry is explained to be different from other bio-inspired design, because of its focus on learning from nature how to be sustainable. Designs following biomimicry are thought to be more efficient, resilient and sustainable, if they emulated biological lessons on form, process and ecosystem. The outcome is superior to that developed through any artificial means.
Biomimicry applied to the design of sustainable animal feed solutions
Farm animals possess limited physiologic responses to challenges such as for example high ambient temperatures, reproduction, oxidation or infections. However, amongst the millions of other species on earth facing the same challenges, we can find many other strategies or adaptations, which could be superior. This means that, within nature there are not just a handful of solutions, but a huge variety of strategies we could potentially adapt to solve physiological needs and equip animals to cope better with stressors.
How did nature solve this?
Plants evolved with sophisticated strategies to cope with stressors, since they can not move away from them and are bound to their locations. We can also learn from other organisms and species in nature that survive under extreme conditions, which strategies give them an advantage. What can we leverage from that in animal nutrition to support adaptive and coping mechanisms in animals?
New benchmarks in animal production and better ways of measuring improvements call for new approaches in the design and evaluation of feed solutions. Biomimicry offers a framework for innovation with sustainable outcomes. There is certainly no harm in asking how nature solved something as a source of inspiration.