By Anna Marks
"Bio Design Challenge: Food Futures" exhibited this month at the Royal College of Art. Students from across the school explored how current innovations in biodesign can shape and influence food production. The event made up part of Biodesign Challenge, a worldwide competition aiming to build collaborations between scientists, artists, designers, and engineers. This was the first time that the event was held in the U.K., and the winner of the exhibition (POM) will compete internationally during the BioDesign Summit held this week at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Due to advancements in new technologies, designers are now able to manipulate and interact with the natural world. As food is inherent to culture, it alters with advances in technology and design. Illustrating this, the RCA projects range from tackling issues relating to food waste to how future agriculture can grow successfully on Mars.
Here is are some of the projects:
POM (pictured above) designed by Louis Alderson-Bythell, Sam Roots, Greg Orrom Swan, and Tashia Tucker is a technology that conditions flies to be more efficient pollinators. Although bees are the main insect pollinators, flies are inadvertent pollinators, accounting for approximately 30% of all pollination. A curvaceous design that appears to look like a natural commodity, POM works by emitting pheromones to attract flies at timed intervals. The flies respond to the pheromones and as a result, their movements can be manipulated, ensuring efficient pollination.
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Mycotopia by Naomi Ashworth, Bianca Russo, Carolyn Tam, Larasati Gunyuu and Thomas James is a project exploring the possibilities of utilizing fungal networks. Such networks play a critical role in all ecosystems and are vital systems in which plants gain nutrients. Mycotopia is a mycelial tube and planter system, which distributes nutrients throughout a network; connecting neighboring environments via tubular connections.
Food Symphony designed by Janice Li, Renata Brenha, and Marika Grasso examines the processes that food goes through when its decaying. This project encourages people to envisage the food’s energy in identifying whether it has gone off. Via molecular spectroscopy, infrared imaging and analytical chemistry, the nutritional components of food was decoded by deep machine learning and scanning. The data was then reinterpreted into sound, revealing variations in music depending on living activity.
The Microsonic project by Anna Grenman, Isabella MacKenzie, Matteo Maccario, Linh Pahm and Xiao Xiao is a non-invasive project allowing the individual to track and observe their gut by collecting sonic data produced by digestive track movements. Ultimately the project examines the effect that microbiomes have on mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Pulpe is a project by Alice Potts, Katrina Yu Wei Lee and Andrew Graeme Illman which considers how food waste issues can be paired with material and textile waste. Here, the students have created a technology that allows them to construct wearable textiles from vegetable waste.
GAstronauts designed by Mahetzi Hernandez, Sebastian Kozak, Ahlad Reddy, and Makiko Takashima explores food and its production for cultural resilience. This project combines advances in food processing and synthetic biology to offer potential for a successful agricultural system on Mars.