Valorization of tree leaves with the help of science, Woogs OÜ

 

In today’s society, there are more things than we actually are able to consume. Everyone can for sure find an item of clothing in their wardrobe that they have not worn at all in the recent years. Or have building materials in the garage from renovation works from over five years ago. We hold on to these things because we might need them again. We are constantly in need of new things as well and that is how the amount of things is increasing.

In Ida-Virumaa, Woogs OÜ, a company that cultivates Estonian design, aims to give new everyday products a new breathing with innovative material combinations and solutions. The company’s portfolio includes earrings made of oil shale, wooden and composite chairs, tables, stairs. Also serving tables that are close to nature, knife holders, wooden baths. As well as a grill and campfire place with a new design – Teemant. At the same time, tree leaves also play a specific role in the nomenclature of the future. 

As the company was developing, it realized that additional knowledge was needed because their own was not enough. It seemed easy with the base material. But the choice of binder for wood and other natural materials and the technological aspects of the material’s preparation and shaping required precise knowledge and testing. 

People who could find the right answers

Germo Saar, the head of the company, admitted that in his head he reached from material to a large scale production in a few seconds. But it was immediately clear that a functioning material, the creation process of which is documented, tested and safe to use, requires more than his knowledge and experience. Based on these thoughts, questions gradually were asked that needed scientific answers. But this required people who could find the right answers. 

“I am a self-made product designer and life artist. While seeing facilities, purchasing products, experiencing different services, I like to think a little further. How it was created, who its author is, why it is shaped like that. And why is this material used, what it consists of, what the production line looks like and so on. I like the unlimited life, its size and possibilities. I believe that we could all use more environmentally friendly solutions and gradually replace less sustainable solutions. But how to do it in our company was limited to my knowledge.” 

From the business centre to universities 

Entrepreneurship and courage took Germo Saare to Ida-Viru Business Centre. “At one meeting, I discussed an idea with Kersti Liiva, the coordinator of the Jõhvi Mentoring Club, which seemed so interesting to me, incredibly good and doable. But I did not have the direction and knowledge to turn to. After my brief description, Kersti said that I should write to Adapter,” Saar said. Until then, for Saar, an adapter had been a so-called current device, a voltage converter between the electricity network and the device.

“I am pleased to say that after days of reading, I learned that this Adapter works similarly to a power adapter. In this situation I was the device that needed access to a larger network. Adapter gave me very suitable opportunities for this. And quickly very correct contacts with research institutions,” Saar recalls the beginning of cooperation with researchers.

Tallinn University gave a helping hand in how and in what way to make different products from tree leaves. “While wood is being handled, every city and home is working hard to get rid of the leaves. The leaves are collected, manpower is used. They are transported out of the city, fuel and machinery are used to just throw them away. Under the forest, in the trash or at best, a part ends up as compost. Instead of pouring the load of leaves to the ground, I hope that in the future all the “harvest” will be brought to the dryer of our new factory. All the leaves, every autumn.”

Adding that the university accepted the idea of ??tree leaves, prototyping a tableware from tree leaves, with open arms.

And so it started

“The first meeting with Ingrid Hindrikson, an expert in business cooperation, and Arvo Pärenson, a lecturer in design, was very positive and memorable for me. An experience where my idea ignites other people, researchers, and partners – it is a feeling worth living for. Arvo had previously worked on similar projects, knew product design very well, is open-minded and supports cooperation. So it was clear that we will continue with this idea together,” Germo Saar explained what it was like to cooperate with the university. Initial tasks were set, both for material-based solutions and document-based issues.

The head of Woogs is convinced that the experience and knowledge of the universities is of great value for the development of new products and indispensable for the implementation of the project. A cooperation project with the University of Tartu and Tallinn University awaits the scientific basis. “The action table is an idea that grew out of a former discussion and a practical need of today. Today, with raising a four-year-old and a 1.5-year-old son, it would be very nice to have a developing toy board that will keep them captivated for more than five minutes. And that has new facets and challenges to solve.”

Proper preparatory work

Saar notes that after the information was sent to the Adapter network, all communication progressed smoothly But acknowledges that each start requires a little more attention, focus and communication.

“The biggest surprise was the open mind of the researchers to cooperate. Not because I doubted the competence or professionalism of our universities. But to see and feel their real desire to support entrepreneurship. To assist in the development of the idea as well as in the applications and implementation. I definitely appreciate the fast and operative administration of the universities and the positive attitude in the implementation of the submitted projects.”

However, according to Saare, it is worth doing as much preparatory research work as possible about your idea before contacting adapter.ee. To make sure that the same idea has not been implemented anywhere, or find out first and foremost what it is, where and how help is needed.

“Proper preparatory work ensures smoother communication and assurance that the work is done with the right purpose. Thinking, creating and designing can be very successful on your own. However, in order to achieve a good product, result and efficiency, there is a solid basis for cooperation. There are many knowledgeable, very experienced and talented people around us, let us give ourselves the opportunity to be helped.” 

A good recognition that Germo Saar reached to was that research and creative work are not too different. “Both require commitment and humanity. People are behind both of those. Just their way of expressing themselves is different. One group uses more numbers and rulers. Others melody and freehand. Communication is important, then even the biggest bottlenecks will be solved. And the goal set jointly will be successfully reached,” Germo Saar, the manager of Woogs OÜ, says.

Kaja Liivak

Co-author of Adapter

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