Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with EATALY and CAAB, has designed a concept pavilion where people can engage with digitally-augmented farming and grow their own food on-site. The project pairs sustainable agricultural practices with online user interaction, paving the way for a new type of collaborative in-store cultivation system, in which anyone can become an organic food producer.
The Pavilion will be featured at the FICO Eataly World, the new 80,000 square meter edutainment park focused on food-production and nutrition, currently under construction in Bologna, Italy.
Visitors will enter the "Area del Futuro," 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," explained 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," Ratti added. "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."