Contact: Megan Ahearn
[email protected]


NEW YORK CITY (August 9, 2017) - In anticipation of announcing the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semifinalists, the Fuller Challenge program is pleased to highlight a few of the initiatives that were selected for the 2017 Catalyst Program, representing the top 17% of entries this year.

In 2017, 461 entries were submitted to the Fuller Challenge from more than 100 countries. Each year, top-tier entries are selected for the Catalyst Program, through which applicants can take advantage of various offerings, including: feedback from the Fuller Challenge review committee on their application; press coverage and media support; and the possibility of funding and opportunities through the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s (BFI) network of partner organizations. More details on the Catalyst Program can be found on BFI’s website.

While these seven projects were not selected as Semifinalists in this year’s cycle, they represent exemplary endeavors in distinct disciplines, and in varying degrees they satisfy the seven Fuller Challenge criteria: visionary, anticipatory, comprehensive, ecologically responsible, feasible, verifiable, and replicable.

The initiatives below represent just a few of the six-dozen that were selected for this year’s Catalyst Program. Other Catalyst Program projects will be shared with the public via email announcements, BFI’s Trimtab newsletter, and social media in the coming months.

ARCHITECTURE: Bjarke Ingels Group submitted a highly anticipatory design called Urban Rigger, a prototype for floating, carbon neutral housing designed for mass production, with the goal of creating an affordable alternative to rising housing prices in major cities. At a quarter of the cost of traditional student housing, Urban Rigger uses a hexagonal configuration of nine up-cycled shipping containers to offer twelve individual residences, storage and laundry rooms, a kayak landing, bathing platform, courtyards, and roof terraces. Multiple units can be configured to fit any port in blocks of varying size allowing for flexibility. Built on a floating base, Urban Rigger would be able to sail apartments as needed to port cities.

URBAN DESIGN: Fruit Futures will develop cooperative landscapes to engage citizen scientists to reboot soil, study microclimates, and cultivate small fruits. Fruit Future’s Community Lab Orchard emphasizes experiential learning and curiosity. Fruit Future’s “Seven Year Lot” teaches innovative and traditional growing techniques for native and cultivated fruits. Its Climate Corridor focuses on temperature-sensitive native fruits, a linear planting method that transforms streetscapes into microclimates. Its most technical approach, the Remediation Arboretum is a new kind of public greenspace and demonstration landscape, with the purpose of investigating how fruiting trees and shrubs can revitalize urban soils.

FOOD SYSTEMS With the advent of industrial agriculture and with an increasingly global food supply chain, fewer and fewer nutrients are being recycled from fields to consumers and back to the fields. Kulisha works with food and beverage companies to convert organic waste byproducts into protein made from insects for use in animal feeds. Kulisha has developed a biological system that uses microbial communities and black-soldier fly larvae to metabolize waste, cutting disposal costs and offering a sustainable alternative to fishmeal.

EDUCATION: Maya Universe Academy is the first and only system of free private schools in Nepal that provides quality education to marginalized and cash-poor communities. At Maya’s free private schools, parents pay with time instead of money. They contribute labor for classroom construction, to support daily school activities, to maintain the school’s farms, and for income-generating small businesses that help fund the school. By engaging parents and students in entrepreneurial ventures such as chicken-raising and organic herb gardening, Maya works to create an entrepreneurial community that thrives on sustainable, local agriculture. Maya's curriculum also directly involves students in local landscapes and economies in order to engage them in the economic development of their communities.

ECONOMY: Developed by the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, BerkShares is an experiment in re-localization and economic democracy in western Massachusetts. BerkShares is a currency that engages citizens in supporting and developing local businesses to meet local needs, thereby decreasing reliance on fossil fuel and imports from afar. First issued in 2006, the currency is directed by BerkShares, Inc, a place-based, non-profit, democratically-structured organization. The currency’s sophisticated design celebrates the region’s history, geography, culture, and values, while a 95-cents-to-1 BerkShare exchange rate encourages citizens to spend their money with more than 400 locally-owned businesses that participate in the program. BerkShares is the leading North American example of local currency issue.

SOCIOCULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY: In Eastern Senegal, Thread acts as an agricultural hub for the rural village of Sinthian and its surrounding villages, providing training, fertile land, and a meeting place for social organizations of the local community. Concurrently, Thread is a socio-cultural center that houses artists’ dwellings and studio space for local and international artists’ residencies. The innovative roof design collects and retains rainwater, creating a viable source for the majority of these new agricultural projects during the eight-month dry season. Thread demonstrates how the built environment can link the alleviation of cultural, agricultural, and economic stagnation, while connecting local and global communities.

AGRICULTURE: The Toothpick Project addresses a critical problem: 40 million African smallholder farmers lose from 20-80% of their maize, sorghum, millet, and rice crops to Striga, a parasitic weed. Striga’s origin in Africa is unclear, but its devastation on smallholder farms has increased for the last seven decades. In Kenya, The Toothpick Project has designed and deployed an ecologically-sound solution: a biocontrol technology using a fungus substance, technically an “inoculum,” embedded onto a toothpick that kills Striga and improves crop yield by averages of more than 50%. With the large majority of Kenya maize farmers being women, they have designed a delivery system that uses women’s knowledge of food preparation to prepare the inoculum subsrate.