Our designer and DIY columnist Caroline Grellier went into high-speed train mode in early 2016 with Termatière, her business project of 100% bio-sourced local new materials.
The urgency of the present moment is to collect vine shoots! It is indeed peak harvest season and Termatière needs to get to the vine shoots before the grinder or before they get burnt in order to amass an annual stock and save these resources, otherwise…we’ve had it! Le Chapitre, experimental estate of Montpellier Supagro, where Termatière is incubated, gave us free rein for the collection. And with relatively limited means (my two arms inexperienced in vineyard work and my car that looks like a primeval forest at the moment), you will understand that is is slightly time consuming…
The positive side is that it allows me to properly identify the parameters to take into account when it comes to organizing at best this collection phase. And the bonus effect is that it feels good to be among the vines in the fresh air!
Tour of the Bordeaux area
Nothing better than leaving the office to go and meet one’s potential future clients and partners. So, having conducted an inquiry in Languedoc-Roussillon, off to Bordeaux to test the waters on another terroir.
On the menu: meeting with the regional wine-producing interprofessional organization, enthusiastic exchange of views with a few grand crus and renowned châteaux from the Bordeaux area, visits of case producers in order to take in the production constraints of wine cases. With a supply of raw materials coming from Spain in vast majority, case producers paid attention to the Termatière proposal of a 100% bio-sourced material, 100% viticultural and made in France locally. Enough to go home to Montpellier with ideas of partnerships in the back of my mind.
My dream material library
This month, I put my designer cap on again, taking the time to imagine and sketch on graphic design software my dream material library (that will act as research program for the team).
MDF type, OSB type vine shoot panel, 100% vine shoot, dyed in the mass with a colored range, wine lees varnish, thick, thin, medium, veneer, sandwich, hybrid, gouged (hollowed out in the material to create more or less textured relief), engraved, enormous.
It feels great to let my creativity run completely free! I have to admit it’s more titillating than working out provisional turnovers…Might as well have fun and experiment one’s most scatterbrained ideas! A fine-tuning meeting with the mixed team from the two research units of Inra (National institute for agronomical research) and Montpellier Supagro is also in the pipeline so that the team members can bring their ideas in relation to their prior knowledge of the capacity limitations of the medium.
On the technical side, I am gathering information here and there, having carried out substantial documentary work. I am spending hours on the telephone with manufacturers who are telling me about their priorities and production constraints; bio-sourced experts who are giving me advice; wood technicians who are also providing me with precious elements to move forward in the writing of my material specifications; aficionados of composite materials who are sharing their utopias.
During this time, in Troyes, at the FRD-Lab (Fibre recherche développement: vegetable fiber-made materials), our little vine shoots are about to undergo a dreadful ordeal in a merciless machine: the defibrillator. Verdict in one month of the study on the potential of vine shoot fiber to be turned into relevant local materials.
Let’s get the white coat on!
Before getting my hands dirty at Inra, the suspense was spellbinding. I’ve been waiting for this for the best of a year… As soon as next week I will be able to put on my white coat and contribute to the manipulations of phase 0 of the program: the preparation of the magic glue with attributes equivalent to epoxy.
This medium is seen as a super ingredient in the fabrication recipe of the first material of Termatière (a 100% bio-sourced composite wood panel made from vine shoots). But this glue has a substantial challenge in store for us that is likely to get the best trained brains all heated up. In fact, for the moment, this proven process only allows us to produce a few grams of glue, at lab bench scale. In order to produce the 5 kilos of glue required for our R&D and to anticipate for the tens of kilos required for a first pre-industrial mass production, we will need to figure out solutions to optimize the process.
It doesn’t frighten us; this isn’t our first challenge!