Food Technology

Design Your Own Vegetables

Imagine a future where you can design your own vegetables. Say goodbye to growing boring baby sprouts on your windowsill and welcome a climate-controlled cultivation system to your kitchen top. Simply change the parameters of your crops with a touchscreen interface and you’ll be on your way. Sounds good, does it? This growing scenario does not exist yet, but food designer and NNN fellow Chloé Rutzerveld is looking for innovative methods to turn this fantasy into a reality. Introducing the Future Food Formula, a formula for success.

Future Food Formula installation.

Consider this, humans are technological by nature. You would be surprised to hear that cooking is the first technology humans ever conceived. This invention allowed our ancestors to pre-digest food before eating it, which led to bigger brains and basically let evolution do its part by turning them into the modern human beings we are today. This would explain our constant need to search for smarter, more efficient and more sustainable ways to produce our food (remember Bistro In Vitro?). After all, a population of 7.5 billion people is not easy to feed.

With this in mind, Chloé Rutzerveld explored the process of growing – or to be more precise, designing – crops, based on scientific facts, to model the outcome into an interactive installation: Future Food Formula. While doing so, she teamed up with researchers from the University of Wageningen and the Association for Vertical Farming, and payed a visit to leading tech company Phillips. Every time she visited a researchers, she asked this simple question: what exactly influences crops? And how can we manipulate this without using GMO’s?

Future Food Formula opening.

“It’s about education” the designer says. “It’s important for us to understand to which extent natural processes affect our crops; these processes keep the vegetation stable”. Chloé single-handedly created charts to map the parameters that determine crops outcome and wondered what would happen if she could convert that knowledge into new crop variations:

“I looked into the growth processes of crops and considered their functionalities: how do crops respond to light? Or to warmth? Having obtained this information, I discovered that I was able to adjust the nutritional values of our crops, but also the taste, color, size etc. It was exciting to discover the endless possibilities to create new crops by simply using nature – and technology enabled me to cope with these factors. This is not a new thing, when modern farmers grow crops in laboratories, efficiency stands first. It’s no a coincidence if tomatoes have that specific red-warm color!”.

Setting the parameters to design vegetables.

Chloé transformed the crop data into 2D drawings, then she collaborated with RNDR to animate them. This way the visitors of the installation gain a playful understanding of the growing processes of vegetables. “Imagine a future where everyone has his own cultivation system on his kitchen top, this would turn consumers into operating green-keepers” the designer explains. “Downloading and upvoting such recipes to a certain database, would give producers an insight into consumers’ demands”.

Partial speculation, partial science, Chloé’s vision promises an exciting future for our diet and cooking appliances. It may as well be a matter of time before her growing methods would available in a kitchen near you. Until then, we advise you to visit Future Food Formula and discover what does it mean to have vegetables on your fingertips.

You can visit Future Food Formula at RAUM in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where Chloé Rutzerveld has been artist-in-residence over the last few months. The installation will be open until October 17, every Wednesday afternoon (15:00 – 18:00) and Sunday (12:00 – 18:00). After this exhibition, the installation will travel to the Dutch Design Week as part of the Embassy of Food exhibition at the Ketelhuisplein in Eindhoven. DDW runs from October 21 until October 29.

Photography: Bram Saeys. Cover image: Stef Arends

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