Nomade des Mers: Journeys aboard an eco-friendly boat in search of low-tech technologies

Nomade des Mer – an eco-friendly boat which houses a wind turbine, pedal power machine and water distiller on board – is on its worldwide journey to promote and foster research on low-tech technologies.

Last year, French engineer, environmentalist and explorer Corentin de Chatelperron began a three-year long tour of the low-tech world, aboard Nomade des Mers, a catamaran 18 metres long and 9 metres wide, composed of 50% linen and 50% jute.

The boat, alongside Corentin de Chatelperron’s crew of two and a few chickens, houses a “kind of research laboratory” with all kinds of low-tech inventions including a charcoal cook stove which uses a “green” charcoal, water distiller, wind turbine, pedal power machine and solar panels.

At each stopover on his low-tech world tour, Corentin de Chatelperron invites two inventors on board Nomade des Mers to participate in finding solutions to local problems using whatever is to hand.

So far the tour has included stopovers in Agadir in Morocco, Dakar in Senegal, Cape Verde, Madagascar, and Recife in Brazil where Corentin de Chatelperron and his crew have met with locals including Sunday inventors, engineers, students, improvisers and researchers.

Each project is also uploaded to the Low-tech Lab website, providing people around the world with a platform to collaborate and share information on developing and promoting low-tech technologies that have low impact on the environment.

Speaking about the Nomade des Mers project, Corentin de Chatelperron said: “I realised that I might be an engineer, but to find low-tech solutions I needed access to a different type of knowledge. Hence the idea of creating a collaborative platform [Low-tech Lab] to exchange know-how and expertise.

“The boat [Nomade des Mers] is also a great way to test solutions: we have to make do with the means at hand, and living in a small space also produces synergies. It is both a mobile laboratory and a floating ecosystem!

“Everybody [can help invent low-tech solutions]. For example, to get my potatoes to grow I really needed advice from my grandmother. On Low-tech Lab, anyone can register and share ideas with video tutorials or respond to challenges. We’re also developing an international network of organisations that could share these low-tech solutions with the people who need them and approach us about local issues.”

Low-tech Lab enables inventors from around the world to contribute their knowledge and awareness of how to create low-tech technologies that are simple, sustainable and accessible systems in terms of costs and know-how.

Examples of low-tech technologies include a wood-saving stove, a multi-function crankset, and an energy-free refrigeration system. Their impact on the environment is low because they favour recovery materials and low-energy operations.

People are encouraged to contribute to the Low-tech Lab website where their “how to” documentation can be uploaded and shared with other inventors. Each project details how to set up, the cost and materials required. The projects vary from solar, clean water filtration systems to an energy-efficient cooking stove.

The Low-tech Lab website states: “Low-technology is also a philosophy, that of doing better with less. Currently, this philosophy is not adequately disseminated and the R&D [Research and Development] focuses on high-tech, and increasingly complex processes.

“Yet, everywhere in the world ingenious inventors innovate with the means of the edge and invent solutions that can be useful to millions of people, to respond to problems as vital, economic or environmental.

“These solutions deserve to be shared. Our goal in the future is to allow everyone to meet their basic needs, to save money, or to reduce their environmental impact through low-tech. Low-technology is in the reach of everyone, and everyone can contribute to their development.”

Bringing together inventors from around the world to work on the same project, that being low-tech technologies, is Corentin de Chatelperron’s purpose.

The 33-year-old engineer has been on a worldwide quest to find low-tech solutions in developing countries for almost a decade. It all began in 2009 with a jute field in Bangladesh, which was opposite The Taratari shipyard, where Corentin de Chatelperron worked. The inventor came up with an idea of replacing the fiberglass – an imported material and also a pollutant – used for boat hulls with jute, which is natural, economic and local.

The jute plant, nicknamed Bengal gold because of its golden colour, provides a living for 40 million Bangladeshis and now also has the power to revolutionise the shipping industry.

To date, Corentin de Chatelperron has built three jute boats. With the Tara Tari prototype, composed of 40% jute, he traveled 9,000 nautical miles from Dhaka in Bangladesh to La Ciotat in the south of France to test the robustness of this agro-composite material. In 2013, aboard the Gold of Bengal, a 100% jute boat, he sailed for six months around the Indonesian islands.

Corentin de Chatelperron has also set up an NGO, Gold of Bengal. The mission of Gold of Bengal is “the R&D and the promotion of solutions that answer challenges of autonomy in water, energy, or materials, that are respectful of the nature and valorize the cultures and resources specifics to each territory”.

Today, the organisation works on two projects. The first is an innovation on jute agrocomposite in Bangladesh. And the second is the Nomade of the Seas project, which includes Low-tech Lab, to promote and foster the research on low-technologies.

Images: © Elaine Le Floch

Gold of Bengal 

Low-tech Lab

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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