Reducing methane emissions to tackle the climate crisis
Francisco Norris is the designer behind ZELP, a revolutionary concept to reduce methane emissions from the livestock industry. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Francisco studied graphic design at the University of Palermo and attended the Buenos Aires Fab Lab, run by RCA graduate José Garcia Huidobro, before coming to the RCA to study MA Information Experience Design (IED). With the support of InnovationRCA he is currently working to bring ZELP to market.
How would you sum up your practice?
I am the co-founder and CEO of ZELP (Zero Emissions Livestock Project), a company developing novel technology to reduce the environmental impact of the livestock industry.
Livestock methane emissions contribute more to global warming than the entire transportation industry combined, and must be reduced to avoid climate catastrophe. ZELP is currently designing a wearable device for cattle that neutralises livestock methane exhalations at the source. Our goal is to find the most efficient way for the entire beef and dairy industries to make a dramatic, immediate difference to the climate crisis.
What are you currently working on?
For the last two years, I have been focused on the development of the ZELP technology. We have achieved our minimum viable product, managed to validate our technology and science via positive lab trials and behavioural pilots, raised a $1.5M Seed Round, and built a team of engineers and animal scientists.
ZELP is the perfect example of a multidisciplinary project, combining design engineering, chemical engineering, animal and data science.
What in particular appealed to you about the IED programme at the RCA?
What initially drove me to the programme was the data grounding, which I thought was missing from many of the parallel programmes that I investigated at the time.
Another key factor was how the different disciplines were required to merge when transforming ‘information’ into design experiences. I’ve always been a hands-on person and felt the programme had the innate cross-disciplinarity that I was looking for.
How did your work develop while you were on the IED programme?
My work matured significantly during my time at the RCA. I developed much greater confidence in my practice, mainly because of the process and network around me.
Do you have a particular stand-out, transformational moment from your time at the RCA?
Being asked to think of our main project, which we were going to spend close to a year on, was a strong moment. I remember forcing myself to tackle bigger projects than I’d previously done, and trying to elevate the quality of work as much as possible. I felt most of the class was in a similar mindset, which ultimately meant we all collectively raised the bar.
For me this meant focusing on global issues, and shifting my aim towards solving critical problems that our societies face. This is the point where ZELP first took shape.
How have you grown as a designer since graduating and how do you feel studying at the RCA prepared you for this?
Designing towards achieving your own personal goals is very rewarding, and the College gives you the time, tools and support to do that. I didn’t just want to come to the RCA and continue to do the same work that I was doing before; I was determined to make the most of my experience here.
During my time at the RCA, my work evolved towards helping to make a real contribution to society through design. After graduating, my goals, ambitions, and the impact of my practice grew bigger. IED exposed me to highly talented people, and inspired me to pursue cutting edge work.
Have you maintained close relationships with your RCA peers, or carried on collaborating with any of them?
Very much so. Our ZELP team of engineers and designers work at InnovationRCA, the College’s incubator. Here I maintain close relationships with colleagues and fresh graduates, and stay closely connected to RCA affairs.
Great friendships were also forged on the IED programme. As a programme, it is very interdisciplinary, so there are always ways to share skills and collaborate.
What’s coming up next for you?
We are working hard to bring ZELP to market by 2021. Our goal is to become leaders in methane mitigation, and to enable the production of sustainable beef and dairy products with a significantly lower environmental impact. With global scale, ZELP can have a greater environmental impact than taking every car in the world out of circulation.
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