Food Futures is a triad of Art, Science, and Technology that speculates on the future of our food production, consumption, and distribution models by 2050. This exhibition was inspired by the notion that humans and plants could communicate to one another through enhanced sensing capabilities and features a live broadcasting aquaponics and hydroponics system that is monitored by sensors and cameras to relay real-time tank and health analytics. We believe that the future of food will be supported by the infrastructure of the information age paired with new agricultural movements like aquaponics and urban farming. A world of connected devices, made intelligent and efficient through computational algorithms and cloud applications is already being constructed on our platforms. Food Futures is a collaboration between researchers Ranveer Chandra, Paul Johns, Asta Roseway, Helene Steiner, Spencer Fowers, and urban farmers Jessica Schilke and Steven Jacobs.
(A) Aquaponics (B) Biofiltration, (C,D. F) Hydroponics, (E) Data and Content Displays
The Green Revolution of the 1960s doubled agricultural yields and expanded the number of people on Earth by more than five billion. Yet success came at a price – an extreme dependence on fossil fuels, a marked decline in the variety of crops we grow, and a global production and supply chain easily toppled by unanticipated weather events. These are critical concerns. Over the next 100 years we must build a global food system that is robust to rapidly changing climates, which minimizes harm to Earth’s natural systems, and is capable of feeding 10 billion people living mostly in urban areas. We believe that the future of food will be supported by the infrastructure of the information age paired with new agricultural movements like aquaponics and urban farming. A world of connected devices, made intelligent and efficient through computational algorithms and cloud applications is already being constructed on our platforms. Future breakthroughs in Microsoft supported research, like FarmBeats and pervasive sensing technologies, may allow for radically new approaches to agricultural. Microsoft takes pride in empowering the world through technology. We are convinced that leveraging our products and services to help feed the world poses not only one of our company’s most exciting, but also most consequential, challenges yet…
What is Aquaponics/Hydroponics and why does it matter in the Future?
Hydroponics, simply, is the growing of plants in nutrient solutions without the use of soil. These nutrient solutions are typically derived via laboratory synthesis from inorganic materials, but can also be made from organic sources using various fermentation and composting processes. In either scenario, the nutrients are shipped in from some other location and mixed with water at the site of cultivation. There are a wide array of hydroponic techniques and systems, which range from simple buckets (Kratky method) to fully automated ultrasonic sprayers. For a more thorough overview of the various types of hydroponic systems, check out this page.
The primary benefit of hydroponic crop production is the vast water savings compared to soil farming. Using anywhere from 30-90% less water than outdoor field crops. However, there is still some amount of nutrient wastewater that must be flushed or rinsed periodically.
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (growing fish) and hydroponics — specifically, growing plants and fish together in a recirculating nutrient solution. In the aquaculture industry, one of the primary wastes to deal with is ammonia excreted by the fish. This waste is often managed via off-site dumping and poses environmental challenges. Aquaponics uses biological communities of plants and bacteria to process this waste and return clean water to the fish. Because the systems are fully recirculating, there is no wastewater to manage, and thus no flushing or rinsing of the systems. This allows for aquaponics to save even more water, and have less environmental impact than even hydroponic farming. As an added benefit, these systems can produce both healthy protein in the form of fish, as well as nutritious produce.
As we move into the future, water is going to be a resource of increasingly grave concern. Properly managing our freshwater resources grows in pertinence each day. These systems will be integral to the successful management of this resource, as currently over half of global water use is for agricultural purposes.