By Bruce Watson

As bio-inspired engineering comes into its own, we take a look at the innovative technologies using nature as a blueprint

This week, the Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to bio-inspired engineering, announced the seven finalists in its first Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The competitors, who come from around the globe, sought to develop efficient, nature-inspired solutions to food shortages. Their solutions copy a wide array of organisms, including an agricultural drainage system based on earthworms, an edible insect harvester based on a carnivorous plant and a desalinizing water still that imitates mangrove trees.

These projects – and the rest of the Global Design Challenge competitors – have until October to develop working prototypes for their inventions. In the meantime, here are a few other bio-inspired innovations that are already changing our lives and the way we relate to nature.