Carlo Ratti

Founder of Carlo Ratti Associati

October 2016
After having developed the first digitally augmented supermarket during Expo 2015 Milano, Carlo Ratti is now working on a collaborative farming project that offers the possibility of growing organic food at tomorrow’s supermarkets. Carlo Ratti Associati and Eataly (an Italian marketplace for high quality food and drinks) are together developing a digitally-augmented instore cultivation system that will result in FICO Eataly World, an 80,000 square-metre edutainment park currently under construction in Bologna. “The project consists of a prototypical pavilion where people can engage with digitally-augmented farming and grow their own food on site. The project pairs sustainable agricultural practices with online data collection, paving the way for a new type of collaborative, in-store cultivation system in which anyone can become an organic food producer.” As a refreshing vision for the food industry, the pavilion will be among the highlights of the edutainment park. “It’s focused on production and nutrition with the aim of enhancing the culture of food. It will be a place of collaboration between startups and traditional businesses”, claims Oscar Farinetti, founder of Eataly.
Area del Futuro, a circular pavilion designed by Carlo Ratti Associati, inscribes a 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. The tank itself glides fluidly through the farming process 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”, says Ratti, who is also a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “As you walk along, 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 metres.” Via advanced data visualisations and sensors reading the plants’ bio- logic conditions, visitors are connected to the farm digitally and thus 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 and its level of growth, and can also 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 check- ing 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’ food needs, but it does allow urbanites to have a more direct relationship with nature.”
By planting a seed, visitors take part in shared hydroponic gardening, illustrating the importance of each individual contribution to global food production. The Area del Futuro, currently under construction, will be inaugurated in 2017.