Collaborative farming: Growing our own organic food at tomorrow’s supermarkets
Carlo Ratti Associati and Eataly food company are developing a digitally-augmented in-store cultivation system that will be featured in FICO Eataly World, a unique 80,000 square-meter edutainment park currently under construction in Bologna, Italy
International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with Eataly World - a food company privately held by Eataly and Coop - has designed a prototypical pavilion where people can engage with digitallyaugmented farming and grow their own food on-site. The project pairs sustainable agricultural practices with online data collection, paving the way for a new type of collaborative, in-store cultivation system in which anyone can become an organic food producer.
With its disruptive vision for the food industry, the pavilion will be among the highlights of FICO Eataly World, the new 80,000 square meter edutainment park focused on food-production and nutrition currently under construction in Bologna, Italy, ideated in collaboration with Bologna Agri-Food Market (CAAB).
Visitors will enter the “Area del Futuro” (Area of the Future), a circular pavilion designed by Carlo Ratti Associati, and follow an immersive route that leads to a vast indoor hydroponic vegetable garden. Here, anybody can choose to plant seeds in a hydroponic tank, and monitor their growth. In fact, the “Area del Futuro” is designed in such a way as to highlight the whole sequence of the maturation process. The hydroponic tank itself slides fluidly throughout the farm as if on a conveyer belt, exhibiting the many stages of plant growth.
“Moving through the space of the pavilion will be like moving through time”, says Carlo Ratti, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of Carlo Ratti Associati. “As you walk through, you will observe the progression of plant growth: from seeds and sprouts at the entrance of the farm to fully developed vegetables after a few meters.”
By utilizing advanced data visualizations and sensors that measure the plants’ biologic conditions, visitors are connected to the farm digitally and are able to access it remotely. Once a person plants a seed in the hydroponic farm, an Internet-of-Things device will match his or her profile with that of the corresponding plant. Using an Eataly World app, the visitor can then track the state of the plant’s biologic data, its level of growth, and even share it on social media. When the vegetable is finally ripe, the visitor can collect it from the pavilion to be eaten or given away.
“Those of us who grew up on a farm know the feeling of planting a seed and then obsessively checking on its progress each day. It’s like discovering the magic of life as it progresses. We wanted to make such an experience accessible to everyone, even those who live in the depths of the city,” adds Ratti. “This sort of urban farming will probably never be able to satisfy all of our cities’ feeding needs. But it does allow us to create a more direct relationship between urbanites and nature. As in Kurt Tucholsky’s old poem ‘The Ideal’, in which the German writer dreams of a house where one side faces the bustling center of Berlin and the other side faces the Alps, we might have future cities that better combine urban life and nature.”
The pavilion will be located at the core of the FICO Eataly World park, a new concept that builds on Eataly’s international success. “With FICO Eataly World, our aim is to enhance the culture of food and nutrition. Children and families from all over the world will come here and understand the immense heritage of Italy. It will be a place of collaboration between startups and old, traditional businesses,” says Oscar Farinetti, founder of Eataly. “Ultimately, we are pursuing a human-centered type of innovation, and that’s why we have chosen to work with Carlo Ratti Associati on this project”.
The “Area del Futuro” project will also foster a debate about traditional farming and new cultivation systems, introduced by a talking hologram of Italian poet and Federico Fellini’s screenwriter Tonino Guerra. By planting a seed, visitors will then take part in the construction of a shared hydroponic cultivation, illustrating the importance of each individual contribution to global food production.
The “Area del Futuro”, currently under construction, will be inaugurated in Bologna in 2017, as part of FICO Eataly World. This 80,000 square-meter edutainment complex includes restaurants, markets, labs, demo fields, breeding farms and a convention center. Started in Torino, Italy, in 2007, Eataly now has locations on several continents. Its New York City outlet – soon to be doubled - has become one of the main attractions for food enthusiasts in the Big Apple.