Alma Matter

by Moisés Hernández Duque

How can I, as a biodesigner, initiate a whole systemic approach to promote change in a local community initiative in London through ethnographic and participatory Biodesign tools and methods?





systemic thinking

Alma​ Matter

Alma Matter is defined as someone or something that provides nourishment. It comes from Latin meaning generous mother. It is precisely my intention with this project to give back or nourish aspects that we, as humans,  have a negative effect on, in this case soil pollution, soil degradation and bad waste management. The project also takes place during an extraordinary time for humankind, the coronavirus pandemic. This signaled/brought about a significant change in terms of human interaction and human-environment interaction. Alma Matter is conceived as a strategy involving local communities, educational institutions, local businesses and governmental entities through biodesign tools.


Fungi (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Pleurotus ostreatus or oyster mushroom is a fungus capable of degrading biopolymer-based compounds such as lignin, cellulose, pectins and hemicellulose. These can be applied to break down waste, such as cigarette butts, as the main carbon source and prevent their toxins from entering the soil.

Process Mycelium.PNG

Mycelium in waste cultivation, Grow Lab.

Full grown Almatray.

Pleurotus with cigarette butts in petri dishes.

Fungi filaments degrading cigarette butt 500X


Fungi filaments degrading cigarette butt 80X


Fungi filaments degrading cigarette butt 80X



I developed 6 groups of 8 petri dishes with Malt Yeast Extract Agar (MEYA) containing an autoclaved cigarette butt sample and a strain of pleurotus. The intention was to give the mycelium a familiar carbon source to encourage its growth by adding the variable of the waste and observing the mycelium’s interactions with it. A remarkable conclusion is that the mycelium manages to colonize the whole plate relatively fast, around 12 days, with no external or internal cross-contamination. The surface of the cigarette butt was completely colonized, and it grew inside of it as well, accelerating the degradation of it.

Media preparation, Grow lab.


Local Community


This project is dedicated to the agents of change, the people that, no matter what, are acting on preserving our open areas, our ecosystems and our biodiversity. Special thanks to the London Fields User Group, Kevin and the whole crew for letting me be part of the team and co-create new alternatives alongside you. The Biodesign community, my tutors along the way and most importantly the support from my family during these strange times. 


London Fields User Group.


Kevin, leader of the London Fields User Group.

moi duotone.jpg

Moisés Hernández Duque


Colombian product, strategic and bio-designer based in London. Holds a BA in Product and Strategic Design and two minors in Entrepreneurship and Cultural Management from Universidad de los Andes. He completed his MA in Biodesign at Central Saint Martins, UAL, working on regenerative strategies, designing with living systems, permaculture systems, and enzymatic treatments for natural fibers. He has been focusing on soil bioremediation using different strains of fungi and using participatory design methods involving local communities of East London, specifically London Fields User Group.