Concarneau, laboratory for low-tech technologies

A small red hull catamaran moored in Concarneau harbor looks like a floating workshop. On the back of the bridge, a small pinwheel turns, connected to printer motors that have been saved from breaking. “We documented this idea, which allows us to have electricity on board, in Dakar”, says Corentin de Chatelperron, the captain of the boat, baptized “Nomad of the Seas”. Black soldier fly larvae grow in a tank suspended above the waves, which decompose the waste and also feed the crickets, protein deposits for the crew. Two mini farms brought from Southeast Asia.

There’s one too “Desert Fridge”, fished in Morocco, from two nested pots separated by sand; a tank of spirulina, a nutrient-rich microalgae that Corentin learned to cultivate in Madagascar; a ceramic filter to make water drinkable, created by a small Guatemalan entrepreneur; a pyrolysis furnace found in India that uses very little wood; Hydroponic tanks, studied in Singapore, where celery, cabbage and lettuce grow, etc.

“There are about 25 low-tech systems on the boat that we use on a daily basis”, says the 39-year-old explorer. Finds collected during stopovers and experienced on board during a trip around the world that began in 2016 in search of “low-tech”, that English term that describes systems that use little energy and materials.

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

More specifically, they are ecologically designed and robust technologies that meet a vital need and are accessible to everyone, both financially and for their development 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 originated far from his native Brittany. After studying engineering in Nantes, the young man went into exile in Bangladesh to work on building fiberglass boats. A polluting material that he replaces with jute fibre, a local natural resource. He sets up a small lab, builds a composite sailboat, and travels on board, somewhat low-tech already on board.

“I lived in Bangladesh for four years and I saw that there was a lot of innovation of this style but no spread. It is interesting to make these ingenious solutions, which often arise from strong constraints, known to those who do not have such strong constraints, but who may have to live with them, by circumstance or by faith.he pleads.

In addition to “Nomade des mers”, the low-tech laboratory, which now has seven employees, has developed a number of projects over the years. In 2018 Corentin left his catamaran to spend four months on a raft in Thailand trying to live independently thanks to low tech. Other members took a tour of France devoted to housing before testing life on board a tiny house equipped with solutions documented by the association. Surveys were also conducted among low-tech professionals to analyze their business model. In June, a territorial project involving 20 public bodies, companies and associations was launched in the Concarneau area to initiate a common approach.

Each time, the low-tech discoveries are the subject of a tutorial that is put online and then tested in full.

“The idea is to show how we might live in the future. We realized that there is a real need to propose a different vision of the future, an alternative vision based on values ​​different 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] »explains Corentin, who ” Not [croit] not under pressure to change”rely on desire instead. “We need to dream of other, greener lifestyles that push people to use these technologies. »

Still “in garage mode”

If this is not the only initiative in the niche, the low-tech laboratory is one of the most visible, thanks to the media coverage of its explorations, which help popularize these sober technologies. But for Corentin de Chatelperron, low-tech is still “in the garage phase, as computers are known, initially ugly, bulky, not easy to use. They are not very successful, not ergonomic, not well designed. It lacks R&D but is starting to evolve. »

This analysis is corroborated by Anne-Charlotte Bonjean, repairability engineer at Ademe (Environmental and Energy Management Agency), who led a study on low-tech approaches published in March.

“Low-tech is little known to the general public, but tends to be marginalized. They are mainly carried out by small economic actors or associations, but large groups are beginning to get involved.‘ she emphasizes.

However, these technologies remain prisoners of their image, of mediation “the impression of backtracking on comfort”, the engineer continues. It is therefore a matter of first making them known and “Credibility”. Therefore, “You have to get out of the side ”do it yourself”who tries to get companies and municipalities on board”argues for his part Thibault Faucon, from Ademe Ile-de-France, who shows “Lack of interest in politics”Main obstacle to resizing.

Brittany wants to become the “low-tech capital”.

The President of the Brittany Regional Council, Loïg Chesnais-Girard, is one of the few politicians to have taken up the issue, convinced by the members of the low-tech laboratory. The socialist wants to make his territory “the capital of low-tech”. In addition to its support for the Concarnoise association, the region has included low-tech in its innovation strategy, investing 2 million euros to finance 40 projects classified as sober and innovative.

Loïg Chesnais-Girard boasts that low-tech makes it possible “Continue to develop the economy without harming the planet”.

“That doesn’t prevent us from keeping our laptops and having access to a good scanner if we have a health issue.he tempers. But in many aspects of our daily lives we can make it simpler and more sober. Low-Tech offers solutions to maintain comfort while reducing our carbon footprint. »

A frugality that Corentin de Chatelperron will also experience this winter: as if on a raft, he tried his hand at low-tech autonomy for four months, this time as a couple, in the Mexican desert. As a pioneer of a more sober way of life.

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