Make Magic Happen: Maker Faire 2017 Roundup

More than 100,000 visitors in only three days, with 700 projects presented by Makers all over the world. These are the stats for the “Maker Faire Rome 2017- The European Edition 4.0”, the largest innovation fair in Europe, organized by the Rome Chamber of Commerce under the auspices of their special bureau, Innova Camera. A “future under construction” was the focus of discussions this year, with a particular emphasis on small and medium-sized companies with young makers at the head of these industries. Massimo Banzi, curator of the event and co-founder of Arduino, said that “the inventions of young makers will lead to innovation and job creation”. As we did for the last edition, we recap the future with a report with the events and innovations that featured in this incredible show and tell. Ready? Let’s do it!

The Future is already here: A look at the opening conference at Maker Faire Rome and at the conference dedicated to Food Makers

The Future in the Making- Opening Conference
Everyday, hundreds of innovations change how we live, produce, and interact with each other. The future is under construction, from everything to digital manufacturing of future foods to biohacking with robotics, to 4.0 enterprises and drones, to AI in agriculture 4.0 through big data and the IoT. These themes were central to the opening of the 2017 Maker Faire, appropriately named ‘The Future in the Making’. The importance of the debate around these themes and the central role that the Maker Faire plays in the Italian context was discussed by institutional figures like the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, Minister Carlo Calenda  and Lorenzo Tagliavanti, president of the Rome Chamber of Commerce. Mark Hatch, the founder of the worldwide Maker movement, opened the discussion with the declaration that “Makers are changing the world thanks to cheaper technologies that allow us to experiment more easily. This is a very important change, with a profound social impact.” Jessie Mooberry of the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University explained how the Maker approach has changed business models because these days, “when we think about doing business we think about action, about how to resolve problems, about what technologies to adopt, and what benefits there will be to the whole community.” Business models have also been revolutionized by Makers, along with technology. When I think about making, I want to solve a problem. I am a maker: What can I do to solve problems? Which technology can I leverage? In the same vein, Novus Foundation founder Miguel Angel Figueroa noted that “the future of the Maker world is squarely fixed on the intersection of some fundamental elements: the resolution of critical issues, passionate collaborations between diverse subjects and the scalability of technologies.” I believe the future of Making is in the intersection between Critical Problems, Passionate Collaboration and Scalable Technology. These themes were applied in practice in many of the stories that people recounted during the conference. This was heard by Gianpiero Lotito and his Facility Live, a horizontal platform, about the management and organization of content which can then in turn enable vertical platforms. Presenter Matt Anderson of Arrow Electronics, which is dedicated to supporting the implementation of innovative startups around the world, echoed this sentiment. There were also a range of speakers representing the realm of food. Pierre-Yves Paslier spoke about Ooho, an innovative packaging that encapsulates water and other liquids using a mixture of algae and vegetable compounds. Ooho is completely biodegradable in only 4-6 weeks, and is so natural that it can actually be consumed! Food designer and Maker pioneer Chloe Rutzerfeld, who traveled the world with her Edible Growth project, presented Strooop, which transforms near-expiry fruits and vegetables into new and delicious foods! To close the panel, Steven Ritz recounted the incredible story of his project, Green Bronx Machine, with his trademark enthusiasm and style. A teacher from the Bronx, widely known as the most difficult areas in the entire state of New York, Steven and his students have cultivated more than 18,000 kg of fruits and vegetables together. Along the way, they’ve taught thousands of children and their families how to grow food and eat healthy! Steven’s energy, like that of the other guests, painted an incredible picture of the future, which he perfectly described in one of his favorite expressions: “from Impossible to I’m Possible!”
The last few years have seen an explosion of a DIY ethos in the fields of robotics and precision sensors. How could such a knowledge bank be applied to Agrifood 4.0? Which kinds of virtuous practices would it favor? In what context? These were the main themes of the panel entitled, “Agrifood: Make, Hack, or Tech”. To open, Steven Ritz of the Bronx Green Machine used his endless energy resources to explain how food should not be considered only as something to eat, but is instead a fundamental element of all the ways we regulate our lives. “Food is politics, culture, and infrastructure”, Steven noted, and it is only through collaboration and innovation that we collectively succeed in “prospering together”.   Our own Chiara Cecchini also highlighted the importance of the co-creative process as she outlined the Future Food Ecosystem. She discussed FFI’s ongoing research on the connections between startups, enterprises and researchers and the impact they have on changes to the food scene at the global level. With her on stage were two exhibitors who really exemplify this change. The first was Miguel Valenzuela, the inventor of the Pancake Bot, a project that reflects the power of the social matrix. He works with disabled children in a series of labs that examine the use of 3D printers for pancakes. Miguel said that, “combining food and technology revealed a natural connection to kids.” The second, Matthew Oswald, is the creator of Mugsy, a machine that uses standard network technologies to manage every aspect of the coffee making process and learns how to produce the best possible result using an automatic learning system and a precise user-based recipe analysis. Matthew declared, “for me, being a Maker is a subversive act. Passing from consumer to producer is already a reward in itself. We can cry out to the world that we will build it with our hands, and then we’ll share exactly how we did it with everyone.” After so many speakers there was luckily room as well for Marie Caye and Arvid Jense, a duo of artists, experiential designers and technological explorers who are constantly on the lookout for new paths to expand our world. Their latest work is SAM, a machine that uses AI to produce and serve a kefir-based soda, and which will soon utilize Kombucha. During their discussion they explored the “democratic” scope of new technology, which is becoming ever more available and closer to consumers final experiences of a product. The panel concluded with Lee Cadesky, the founder of One Hope Kitchen, the first meat sauce made from insects. Lee explained that often, new types of foods can confuse or disorient consumers. As such, to create new food sources it’s not enough to be delicious: “they must also look good and inspire enthusiasm.”

Face to Face with Makers: From musical robots to agrifood, a wealth of projects were presented and encountered in Pavilion 9

The Future Food Ecosystem curated the Food Makers hall in Pavilion 9 of the Rome Maker Faire, dedicating the space to arts, music, and food, displaying projects at the vanguard of food, agriculture, and gardening along with new forms of art and music. We were lucky to speak with many of them, and have a series of video interviews available. Plantui: A hydroponic garden designed for domestic use that is capable of growing up to 12 plants simultaneously, Plantui uses a patented system that facilitates every stage of growth thanks to a unique spectral luminosity that can double or triple the amount of Vitamin C and Beta-carotene in a plant. Wallfarm: This team has developed the most reliable and efficient solution on the market to automate any kind of vertical farming system. With their innovative concept of Lean Intelligent Agriculture (LIA), Wallfarm is poised to become the industrial standard bearer for vertical farming automation. Tower Garden: As one of the global leaders in vertical farming, Tower Garden produces aeroponic growing towers that fit perfectly into any home, no matter the size or location. Sam: This machine uses AI software to produce and serve sodas and beverages made from Kefir, and will soon do the same with Kombucha. Cooki: This software is targeted to food service professionals and helps them to monitor and track food costs while also communicating information about allergies and the nutritional value of their products to guests. Spireat: This startup produces 100% organic Italian spirulina that is also sustainably farmed. How do they do it? By enabling farms to recuperate thermal energy from biogas, they gather spirulina all year round with zero added cost to the farmer. Waste2Value: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so they say. This initiative is based around the creation of a circular economy designed to recuperate food and paper waste in shopping centers and malls. During the Maker Faire, Martina Melucchi and Angelica Trinchera asked visitors for their feedback on their project, “RECYCLheart, the art of recycling”, an online platform that aims to create a bridge between business that create waste and those who use that waste to create new products. Biospremi: The brainchild of Nino La Greca, a Sicilian olive farmer and oil producer, this patented system introduces a new method of oil expression with impressive results. REVOILution: This project brings freshly expressed extra virgin olive oil to the Italian consumer market using a high tech system that comes with concentrated olive paste that has been freeze dried and packed to maintain quality and freshness. Funghi Espresso: The team will participate in a cooking demo with chef Marco Vitale of Vitam Advice and will show off their award winning product. A blue ribbon prize winner at last year’s Maker Faire Rome, Funghi Espresso produces fresh, natural, sustainable mushrooms using coffee grounds that they collect from local bars and restaurants. Ripple: Ripple engages consumers by printing images and personalized messages on their drinks. The products were presented to Laura Boldrini, President of the Chamber of Commerce. Shi Liao Bo: This young team representing the Scuderia FF Urban Coolab food innovation hub in Bologna studies the intersection between science and cuisine through their experiments in fermentation, infusion, and ‘food alchemy’. These two concepts co-exist in a symbiotic relationship, creating a new ecosystem through their interactions. The nutraceutical properties of uncooked foods are increased using different techniques: fermentation, dehydration, and infusion. The result is a ‘circular’ model where the idea of ‘waste’ is transformed into ‘value’. Meraky Design: an amazing design concept against food waste, this boutique company upcycles paper waste and turns it into unique and artisanal accessories for men, women and children. One Hope Kitchen: the first meat sauce created using insect protein. Wenda: This company has developed a highly innovative solution using the Internet of Things. Using an electronic device together with an app and a web platform, they resolve problems related to the preservation of wine during transport and storage. Music of the Plants: This unique project connects plants to sensors which reveals the music contained within. Click on this link for the complete list of interviews, and this link brings you to a photo gallery dedicated to the makers we met at the Maker Faire Rome!

Chef 4.0: Workshops and Cooking Demos from the Future Food Ecosystem

In collaboration with techno-scientific partners and innovative startups, we held workshops and cooking demos dedicated to the future of food for the press as well as the public during the Maker Faire Rome: 3D Food Printing: After a showcase at the World Maker Faire in New York, 3D pancake printer PancakeBot wowed audiences at the Maker Faire Rome. Imagine colored pancakes in incredible shapes, all 3D printed! In this workshop, Chef Miguel Valenzuela told crowds about the origins of his inventions and the social matrix that the PancakeBot brings with it! Food Alchemy: Fermentation has been used by human beings for more than 5000 years as a method to transform products with a low nutritional value into nutrient rich foods. The practice is easy, sustainable, and has a range of health benefits! At Maker Faire Rome 2017, food alchemists Francesco Dell’Onze and Jose de la Rosa organized an entire workshop around this thesis, creating an open lab that demonstrated the power of fermented foods and their impact on human health. Moka con Funghi Espresso: Based on the principle of the ‘Blue Economy’, this cooking demo from Chef Marco Vitale created a mushroom based drink using a common coffee pot, and then used the same preparation to make mini burgers. Made in Italy Tradition and Innovation: This cooking demo married tradition and innovation with a guest experience of exceptional products. Chef Marco Vitale used his Funghi Espresso products in conjunction with the diamond shaped pasta of La Pasta Diamantata, the brainchild of agrifood businessman Fabio Maggiori. His decades of experience in the sector, coupled with his family’s ownership of land in the Marche region for more than 500 years, helped him create this innovative project. The pasta is textured with a diamond shaped pattern, whose rhombus like shape creates a weft that retains more of the pasta sauce in on its concave surfaces. See the results for yourself in this video.

Little Makers, Big Heroes! The Future Food Kids Lab at Maker Faire Rome 2017

Maker Faire is for everyone, and no party would be complete without dedicating time to the real future food innovators, children! On 3 December in the Future Food KIDS area, we held three workshops dedicated to kids ages 6 to 12. Science in the Kitchen: In this new lab, we taught young scientists about the correct use of edible chemical products that we’ve got in the kitchen such as baking soda and sucrose. By playing and experimenting together, we explored the world of food using science, creating a unique learning experience. Our experiments in non-Newtonian fluids was a real hit with the crowd, as young makers mixed potato flakes with water and observed the results. Both children and their parents were amazed when the fluid took different, and often bizarre forms depending on the amount of force applied. They also loved painting ‘rainbows’ with milk during an experiment that proved the concept of superficial tension. Food Waste: This lab was designed to teach children about the importance of paying attention to food waste, and what it means to practice sustainability in their daily lives. Together, we created “Salvacibo”, a system of redistributing food that was near expiration but still perfectly edible, or food that had been unsold, to make sure that people who could not afford to eat could still enjoy healthy food. Superfoods for Superheros: What do superheroes eat? What if vegetables were the real superheroes? This workshop was dedicated to discovering new recipes for the entire family while also learning the story of superfoods. We also tried out some new combinations and tastes during this fun culinary adventure. Using their recipes, which contained chia seeds, goji berries, oatmeal, coconut, chocolate and other natural ingredients that are easy to find in supermarkets, these Little Makers got to know the building blocks of good, healthy eating!