Carlo Ratti Associati unveils Hortus, an interactive pavilion that allows everybody to become a food producer, thanks to a digitally-augmented hydroponic cultivation system. The project premieres at FICO Eataly World together with Venchi pavilion, another work by Carlo Ratti Associati.
With its disruptive vision for the food industry, the project is among the highlights of FICO Eataly World, the new 100,000 square meter edutainment park that opened on November 15th, 2017 in Bologna, Italy.
Visitors enter the “Hortus” circular pavilion - one of FICO’s six multimedia carousels” - 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 start monitoring their growth.
“Moving through the space of the pavilion will be like moving through time”, says Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founder of CRA: “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 plants after a few meters.”
By utilizing sensors that measure the plants’ status, visitors are connected to the farm digitally and are able to access it remotely, from the “Hortus” web app (www.hortus.eatalyworld.it). 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 the web app, the visitor can then track the state of the plant’s biological data, its level of growth, and even share it on social media. At “Hortus”, you can sow seeds of basil, curly lettuce, wild rocket, and butter lettuce. Once the plant is finally ripe, it will be collected to be eaten.
“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 is 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 and his team on this project”.
“Hortus” also fosters a debate about traditional and new farming systems. Visitors are welcomed into the pavilion by a video hologram of two familiar personas, an elderly man and a little girl. By planting seeds, visitors take part in the construction of a shared hydroponic cultivation, illustrating the importance of each individual contribution to global food production.