20 May, 2019 – INBAR speaks to Daniel Capobianchi, a passionate bamboo advocate and public relations specialist from Brazil, about the development of the Brazilian bamboo industry and the most exciting startups coming out of his collaborative platform Hub Bamboo.
Brazil, the largest country in South America and famously biodiverse, home to the bulk of the Amazon rainforest. It is also home to rich and varied bamboo resources, including 258 species and around ten million hectare of forest containing these species, of which around 4 million hectares is bamboo forest. Despite this huge potential, the bamboo industry faces huge challenges including infrastructure gaps, the dispersed nature of bamboo forest cover and rarity of commercial bamboo plantations, huge distances between consumer and producer areas and lack of the knowledge and technology needed to take advantage of this valuable resource. A small but growing number of designers and activists are working hard to bring growth to a thriving, high-value industry from the ground up – and well-connected to serve them is Daniel Capobianchi.
Daniel trained in traditional public relations and marketing and came to the bamboo sector just two years ago, after bamboo growing in his neighbours garden literally crashed into the roof of his house one night, causing damage to his roof. This unfortunate accident seems like a bolt from heaven now, as the time and money spent on roof repairs was also time spent thinking: Bamboo really is everywhere: why aren’t we using it more? The influential book ‘The Barefoot Architect’ by friend of INBAR Johan van Lengan, who details bamboo as one of several alternative materials and methods for a holistic approach to building. Daniel saw the potential of the material in Brazil, and knew that his skills could come in useful. “There are talented people who can make amazing products with bamboo in my country.” He says. “But you need more than hands-on skills to build a business. That’s where I come in.”
Hub Bamboo, he explained to us, is a think tank, business solutions partner and business incubator, that has been obsessively collecting best practices, start-ups, products and initiatives using bamboo and acting as a platform to launch them into a bigger market. It has taken a year to build this network, but they are getting close to bringing the first partners to market.
Daniel’s enthusiasm when he talks about the products and initiatives that Hub Bamboo is working with is infectious. Some of the partners work with vulnerable communities in remote areas of Brazil, and support vulnerable off-grid populations and conserve traditional culture, like Bambu Carbono Zero led by Danilo Candia. Others, represent the cutting edge of style and will help to update bamboo’s image in the eyes of Brazil’s consumers, Tao Bambú, led by João Gasparini, which has developed a great line of business gifts with cellphone speakers, tablets supports and pen holders, all products made from bamboo with high finished treatment.
A Bambuzeria created and led by Paulo Bustamante, which produces these incredible lamps, decorative bowls and vases and bathroom accessories, also deserves a mention:
Out of this network have arisen a brand, BEMBAMBU, which intends to operate as an umbrella brand for many of the artisans and partners that have been borne out of Hub Bamboo.
But it is one particular project that has grabbed his attention more than any others – the world’s first bamboo biocomposite prosthesis, developed by researcher Vitor Gomes dos Santos. Looking for investors now, the prosthesis could be 50% lighter and 50% cheaper than other alternatives on the market, and in Brazil represent a shift away from a reliance on imported materials from hi-tech prostheses. The different components of the prostheses are all made of locally sourced products. These products need to pass rigourous testing before they can enter the market, and the team are sourcing investment now to do so.
“I believe that we can change the world into a better place with bamboo. I am a wood lover and have worked with wood in the past. But wood is a very precious resource. We have to use it sparingly. Bamboo can substitute not only wood, but also other things – and it will always be there for us. It grows fast and furious. It grows back. And it is so strong – the strength of the fibres gives us so many possibilities. It is the perfect tool to improve the lives of poor people in rural areas.”
Daniel and his collaborators believe that bamboo can only fulfil its potential if its incredible range of products are recognized as high value and give the value they deserve – and Bamboo Hub Brazil aims to do just that. They are working together to present a unified front, connect potential suppliers to artisans, businesspeople and consumers, and exploring new ways to sustainably harvest Brazil’s bamboo resources in an environmentally friendly way.