Concarneau, laboratory of low-tech technologies

Moored in the port of Concarneau, a small catamaran with a red hull looks like a floating workshop. Behind the bridge, a small wind turbine turns, connected to the printer motors saved from destruction. “This idea, which allows us to have electricity, we documented it in Dakar”, said Corentin de Chatelperron, the captain of the boat, who baptized the “Nomade of the seas”. In a tank suspended above the waves, black soldier fly larvae grow, decomposing the waste and also feeding the crickets, protein deposits for the crew. Two mini-farms brought back from Southeast Asia.

There is also a “dessert fridge”, fished in Morocco, made of two nested pots separated by sand; a tank of spirulina, a micro-algae rich in nutrients that Corentin learned to cultivate in Madagascar; a ceramic filter to make water drinkable, created by a small entrepreneur in Guatemala; a pyrolysis stove that uses very little wood, found in India; hydroponic tank, studied in Singapore, where celery, cabbage and lettuce, etc. grow.

“There are about 25 low-tech systems on the boat that we use every day”, said the 39-year-old explorer. Finds acquired during stopovers and experienced on board, on a world tour that began in 2016, in search of “low-tech”, this English term that refers to systems that consume little energy and material.

“The idea is to scan the planet to find the right ideas and build a free and open database, to accelerate the change towards a more sustainable way of life”explains the founder and honorary president of the Low-tech lab, an association created in 2014, whose mission is to promote these solutions that meet three main principles: useful, accessible and sustainable.

More specifically, they are eco-designed and sustainable technologies, which meet an important need and are accessible to everyone, financially and for their design or repair. A counterpoint to high-tech, an industry that consumes resources and is jealous of its trade secrets.

A contrast to high-tech

The project has evolved far from his native Brittany. After studying engineering in Nantes, the young man went into exile in Bangladesh to work building fiberglass boats. A polluting material, he decided to replace it with jute fiber, a local natural resource. He sets up a small laboratory, builds a composite sailboat and travels aboard, having boarded some low-tech.

“I lived for four years in Bangladesh, I saw that there are many changes in this style, but there is no diffusion. These ingenious solutions, which often appear due to severe restrictions, it is interesting to communicate them to those people who have no such strong obstacles, but who perhaps have to live with them, either by force of circumstance or by belief”he begged.

In addition to “Nomade des mers”, the Low-tech lab, which now has seven employees, has developed several projects over the years. In 2018, Corentin left his catamaran to spend four months on a raft in Thailand and try to live independently thanks to low-tech. Other members toured France focused on housing, before trying life aboard a small house equipped with solutions documented by the association. Surveys were also conducted among low-tech professionals to dissect their business model. In June, a territorial project was launched in the conurbation of Concarneau with 20 public structures, companies and associations, to initiate a collective approach.

Each time, the low-tech discoveries were the subject of a tutorial that was posted online and then tested at full scale.

“The idea is to show how we will live in the future. We realized that it was absolutely necessary to propose another vision of the future, an alternative imagination based on values ​​that differ from those of Elon Musk. [patron de Tesla, Space X et Twitter, NDLR] or Mark Zuckerberg [patron de Meta, groupe qui détient notamment Facebook, Instagram et Whatsapp, NDLR] »explained Corentin, who “no [croit] not forced to change”relying instead on desire. “We have to dream of a different, greener lifestyle that drives people to use these technologies. »

Still in “garage mode”.

If it is not the only initiative in the niche, the Low-tech lab is one of the most visible, thanks to the media coverage of its explorations, which helps popularize these sensible technologies. But for Corentin de Chatelperron, it’s still low-tech “at the garage stage, as computers are known, which are ugly, big, not easy to use at first. They are not very successful, not ergonomic, not well designed. There is a lack of R&D, but it is starting to happen . »

This analysis was confirmed by Anne-Charlotte Bonjean, repairability engineer at Ademe (Agency for the environment and energy management), who led a study on low-tech techniques published in March.

“Low-tech is not well known to the general public, but tends to be marginalized. They are mainly brought by small actors or economic associations, but large groups are starting to get involved.he pointed out.

However, these technologies remain prisoners of their image, which carries “the impression of backpedaling in comfort”, the engineer continued. It is therefore first a question of introducing them and “credibility”. For that, “You have to get off the sidelines ”do it alone”trying to get companies and communities on board”argued for his part Thibault Faucon, from Ademe Ile-de-France, who teaches “lack of interest from the political world”major obstacle to scale change.

Brittany wants to be “low-tech capital”

Convinced by the members of the Low-tech lab, the president of the regional council of Brittany, Loïg Chesnais-Girard is one of the few politicians who have taken up the subject. The goal of the socialist is to make his territory “the capital of low-tech”. In addition to its support for the Concarnoise association, the region has integrated low-tech into its innovation strategy and invested 2 million euros to finance 40 projects identified as sensible and innovative.

Low-tech, proud Loïg Chesnais-Girard, makes it possible “continue to develop the economy without destroying the planet”.

“That doesn’t stop us from wanting to keep our laptops and have access to a good scanner when we have a health problem.he annoyed. But in many aspects of our daily lives, we can make it simpler and more sensible. Low-tech ones that offer solutions to maintain comfort, while reducing our carbon footprint. »

An austerity that Corentin de Chatelperron will experience again this winter: as on the raft, he will test low-tech autonomy for four months, this time in pairs, in the Mexican desert. As a pioneer of a more sober way of life.

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