BLOG

Mock Wild Picnic #01

May 21, 2024

Join us from 12:00-15:00 on May 25, 2024 at Zone2Source in the Amstelpark for the very first Mock Wild Picnic, where we will be tasting a combination of food forest ingredients and alternative proteins.

The MOCK WILD Picnic series takes two very different visions of the future of food and sticks them in a blender to see what happens.

Register ahead of time to reserve your picnic basket for 2-5 eaters, which you can pick up at the Orangerie and enjoy anywhere in the Amstelpark. Tell us how many eaters to pack the picnic basket for (2-5) when you register and make a €2 deposit secure your basket before they run out.

All the recipes will be created by the MVP x FFF Food Computer, an AI-assisted thinking and tinkering tool for harmonizing the rhythms and culinary possibilities of Minimum Viable Proteins (MVPs) and Food Forest Flavours (FFFs).

If you don’t register for a picnic basket ahead of time, or you don’t want to eat, just stop by the Orangerie where you can: Test the MVP x FFF food computer and view the MOCK WILD video and textile installation.


This project is developed as part of the Hungry EcoCities S+T+ARTS Residency which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement 101069990.


Hosted by Zone2Source.

AI Test Kitchen

March 27, 2024

Test kitchen and blog post by Eileen Reiner.

For the past week I have been tinkering in the kitchen to put chat GPT to the test and test cook a variety of AI generated recipes as part of the Center’s MVP X FFF project. 

The work explores if and how digital tools and AI can aid in the creation of viable and desirable recipes from novel ingredient combinations. It features the MVP x FFF food computer that harmonizes the rhythms and flavors of alternative protein products (MVPs) and food forest produce (FFFs). The computer remixes MVPs and FFFs based on user preferences, creating novel and delicious recipes that are nutritionally-complete and ecologically-minded.

I was curious to see if the current prompts we had fed Chat GPT were working, and if the AI had already developed the culinary expertise and creativity to create great dishes, or if we needed to prompt and support it some more…


Dish 1:  “Cluck ‘n Chestnut Surprise Bites: Savory Candyland Delight!”

Playing with the food computer menu options, I selected red berries and chestnuts as my food forrest foods in season, and the vegetarian butchers ‘what the cluck’ chicken pieces as my alternative protein.  I was curious to see how chat GPT would taste pair the three and how many other surprising and complimenting ingredients it would combine them with. 

I chose a mixed salad for my typology – which seemed to give ample room and opportunity for an array of different flavours, and I chose it to be ‘in the style of’ savoury pick-n—mix finger food to bring a new experiential element to how the dish is consumed. 

The first few salad recipes chat GPT gave me sounded tasty but pretty safe – perfect for the suspicious eater, but I felt like I wanted to be surprised and inspired. So I gave Chat GPT a little nudge by adding ‘something surprising and fun’ to the prompt which seemed to do the trick! an array of options from wonton candy land salad parcels, to feta and raisin sprinkled Caesars arose. Finally I landed on “Cluck ‘n Chestnut Surprise Bites: Savory Candyland Delight!”

I managed to find everything in my local supermarket, and set to work. The salad was easy and simple to put together (mainly chopping) However, I did allow myself a little creative autonomy during the process where I felt the recipe needed tweaking. Chat GPT hadn’t told me how to prep the Kale. I didn’t really fancy ribbons of raw kale in my salad so I massaged it with olive oil and salt and put it in the air fryer to add a satisfying umami crisp to the affair. 

Although advertised as such, I was still surprised by the similarity of what the cluck chicken strips to chicken. fried up much the same as chicken breast, about 5 mins on each side – until they were nicely golden brown, they possessed a very similar textual experience. 

The tricky bit was assembling the parcels. I feel like this is heavily dependant on the type of salad leaves you have. Large, soft, yet not too fragile seems the way to go. In retrospect I think baked or boiled cabbage leaves could have been the one here. 

The result was pretty much as promised: Surprising savoury candyland bites. The the tart ‘pop’ of the berries worked really well to cut through the grease of the’ what the cluck’ chicken and the soft, sweet nutty texture of the chestnuts. The mint leaves and snap of the watery lettuce really freshened it up, as the crispy fried kale added a salty twist. 

This particular dish was what I was hoping the role of chat GPT would deliver. Something that was rooted in an understanding of the existing salad format and taste paring data –  yet offering something unexpected and beyond my cultural imagination. Having the specific list of seasonal food forrest ingredients, and Alternative proteins to chose from also gave me some interesting boundaries in which to play with new taste combinations.

So was this just a lucky dish, or does is Chat GPT generally a success in the kitchen? I thought Dish 2 would be a good opportunity to find out.


Dish 2: “Red Currant Vegan Ice Cream Cone: Crispy Delight Edition”

This time I wanted to the try red berries with something sweet. Combining them with oatly oatgurt and Veggs (egg substitute), I put Chat GPT to the culinary test with some vegan pastry baking, and homemade ice cream. 

I was pretty dubious about this dish, as vegan pastry is an art form. Having thousands of years of experience around the way that egg behaves – vegan baking is relatively new. Since my mum is a chef that has experimented in that field I have seen that it takes trial and error, especially around the structural integrity of things – which was causing me concern around the ice cream cone – for which chat GPT simply instructed me to bake a pancake and wrap it around a cone shape until it was cool.

I found all the ingredients at my local supermarket – with one substitution – ‘oggs’ instead of ‘veggs’ (which seemed very similar).

The ice cream itself was pretty successful! The Oatgurt was creamy and rich – a perfect base to mix the vanilla extract and maple syrup. The red berries were fresh and tart which complimented the sweet syrup nicely. I would have probably gone for nuts over pretzels, but the salty element was exciting. 

The cone however was extremely tricky and time consuming. Although relatively easy to get into the right shape it didnt hold it’s structural integrity when the support came out. I experimented with various thicknesses of the pancake at various temperature, for varying time-frames, and even tried putting it in the freezer once set. Vegan baking is quite a fine art that it seems in this case chat gpt still needs to finesse. Back to the prompt board with that one I think!


I really enjoyed the creative process of pairing the seasonal forrest food flavours with the list of alternative proteins and was inspired by the new flavour combinations – even those I was weary of! Chat GPT was fun to work with in this arena and encouraged me to try new things, although It definitely has its oversights! These seemed to be more around the cooking and structural integrity of things rather than the flavour pairing itself. Although I found Chat GPT to be pretty impressive in creative writing, I feel it still needs a little more support and lots of clear prompts in the kitchen for now.


This project is developed as part of the Hungry EcoCities S+T+ARTS Residency which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement 101069990.

 

Ecosystem Service Surge Pricing

February 29, 2024

In honor of @wendys embrace of surge pricing (rechristened as discounts during down times due to backlash)…we wanted to share a very short food fiction we made in the winter of 2023: ECOSYSTEM SERVICE SURGE PRICING. 


In the world of “Ecosystem Service Surge Pricing,” a revolutionary economic system transforms consumer habits. Here, the cost of every item dynamically reflects the ecosystem services it either supports or hinders. This shift profoundly impacts food and farming, where the cost of a menu perpetually oscillates based on the environmental impact of its offerings.

In a bustling urban eatery, patrons scan digital menus, their eyes widening as prices update in real-time. The once-favored beef burger now carries a premium, its cost elevated due to its substantial environmental footprint. In contrast, dishes made from locally sourced vegetables and sustainable grains are surprisingly affordable.

Amid this economic metamorphosis, consumers find their tastes evolving. Dishes once overlooked, like a salad of wild greens or a stew of ancient grains, become culinary trends. People start to savor flavors they never considered, guided by prices that nudge them towards environmentally benign choices.

Farmers, too, adapt. They shift from resource-intensive crops to diverse, eco-friendly farming practices, finding new markets ready to embrace their sustainable produce. This new economic paradigm fosters a symbiotic relationship between consumer choice and environmental stewardship, reshaping the culinary landscape.

In this world, every purchase is a vote for the planet, and eaters, guided by fluctuating prices, unwittingly become guardians of the earth, their palates expanding in harmony with nature’s needs.

What if…Biodiversity became the main measure of healthy human food systems?

January 11, 2024
An AI generated image

For the last few months we have been participating in the Musae S+T+ARTS Residency. We are one of ten artists in this program, and for the first half of the residency have been asked to follow “Design Futures Art-Driven (DFA) methodology” in the process of developing a future scenario related to food and technology. 

In this project we are actively encouraged to use generative AI tools, so this is the first time Genomic Gastronomy has experimented with AI image generation, using DALL-E in Chat GPT 4. While we also played around with ChatGPT for text generation in earlier phases, we decided to write our own script for the final submission, because the prompt engineering for text was more trouble than it was worth for the lengths of text we were generating. We had fun experimenting with image generation and tested out several different tones and aesthetics to tell our stories within stories. 

Below you can see and read the scenario we presented in December to mark the halfway point of the project. Our next step is to take this scenario as inspiration for creating an artwork that will be shown in Barcelona in April. 

The Scenario

In 2033 the buzzword in every part of the food system is biodiversity. Attempts earlier in the 21st century for food systems to be chemical free or carbon neutral, had limited uptake and impact. 

After the quite radical Maximizing Biodiversity legislation was approved by the European Commission in 2028, the increase in agricultural and wild biodiversity has had a big impact on the food system, with tangible and measurable changes and impacts, both good and bad.

Meet the Journalist 

A journalist named Max travels around Europe to write an article. His assignment is to describe how various stakeholders in the food system are adapting to the new EU agricultural rules which tie payments to demonstrated increases in agricultural and wild biodiversity.

From radical fringe groups in remote areas, to the largest ag-tech corporations, everyone is looking for ways to make kitchens, farms, and rural landscapes more biodiverse.

He is particularly interested in talking to the farmers and citizens that feel left behind by the new focus, and the network of regenerative farmers and food producers who work to heal agricultural landscapes. On his journey he will interview four people and attend two events. Below is a map of his journey.


Stop 1:

Where: Portugal Who: Inês What: Food Forest Technician.

His first stop was Portugal where he interviewed Inês – a pioneer in optimizing emerging technologies for biodiversity & environmental healing; transforming neglected landscapes into thriving ecosystems through a unique blend of traditional wisdom and cutting-edge technology. With a background as a certified drone technician, Ines has evolved into a visionary farmer and environmentalist, fusing traditional agricultural practices with modern technology and community engagement.

“I started out as a certified drone technician but now I consider myself a pioneer farmer, especially for the coastal landscapes of northern Portugal. In the early 2010s, I was working with satellites, sensors and drones. At the time, the obvious application for these technologies was in the military, but I soon saw a different opportunity. 

I had inherited a neglected plot of land, so I began using technology to help me grow and monitor trees, plants and medicinal herbs. I thought it would be fun to mix traditional wisdom, modern technology, and community involvement to boost the biodiversity of our local food system.

I used drones to take multi-spectral images in order to assess the health of the landscape. 

I developed an algorithm for helping with the complex task of timing and coordination when planting and harvesting a food forest. The land is now a thriving food forest where we cultivate crops. I grow 200 species: all adapted to the changing climate conditions of the region. 

Recently, I built bespoke technologies to measure the ecosystem services this landscape provides. This includes sensors for soil, water and carbon storage. 

Now I’m even using an AI-enabled audio ecology monitoring system, to track biodiversity. 

The data these tools collect and process is used to qualify for financial incentives, so I can afford to hire local people to do the delicate harvesting that robots can’t achieve.” Inês Santos


Stop 2:

Where: Netherlands Who: Katerina What: Teacher

Max’s Second stop was in the Netherlands, where he Interviewed Katerina – a visionary in education who has pioneered a curriculum that prioritizes hands-on experiences and outdoor learning in the local community. She believes that more humans should farm and work with food, whilst her country is famous for automating everything.

“I run an alternative school called the Resilient Century Academy (RCA). It’s located in the heart of the most densely populated country and technologically automated food economy in Europe. 

While students in other schools are learning about prompt engineering and AI management, we have developed a curriculum that maximizes the amount of time that students spend outside in the neighborhood, working with their hands and each other. Classes on farming, upcycling and mending are core to our program.

Up until recently our low-tech and socially-minded approach to learning didn’t raise any eyebrows in the historically tolerant Dutch education system, but our stated goal of creating a generation of leaders who are radically resilient and know how to survive—even if the complex digital infrastructure and machinery of our lives breaks down—has ignited heated debates about the economy, sustainable farming, education, and the environment in the press.

The thing that really got us in trouble was when we refused to serve analogue meat and dairy substitutes and automated greenhouse vegetables in our vegetarian, student-run cafeteria. Now my school is under attack by parents, politicians, and especially industry lawyers who represent the automated horticulture industry centered around Westland and alternative meat industry based in Wageningen. Both industries sell internationally, and it doesn’t look good when Dutch schools refuse to serve their products.” Katerina Baas



Stop 4:

Where: Germany who: Public plant breeders What: A conference for public plant breeders

Max’s Fourth stop was to attend a conference for public plant breeders in Germany. With a schism unfolding the conference was more eventful that Max had anticipated but gave him some insight that friendly disagreements or competition in the open leads to more and better outcomes than work that is done out of public view.

Max writes:

Yesterday I traveled to Berlin to attend the annual Cultivar Collector Conference (CCC). When I arrived, the door was blocked by protesters holding “NO CRISPR IN MY KITCHEN” posters. I flashed my journalist pass and snuck in a side door. 

A colleague at the snackbar waved me over: “Did you hear?” she asked, “The Cultivar Collector Community has split into two camps and everyone’s going crazy.” 

Over the last year, a deep ideological divide had pitted the cultivar fetishists community against itself. On one side, the “retainers” were zealously preserving heirloom varieties, shunning any form of contemporary genetic engineering; while at the other extreme, the “retrainers” began embracing cutting-edge technologies like CRISPR, transgenesis and spray-on gene editing to create new, open source cultivars. Both groups claim to be the protectors of agricultural biodiversity, so I interviewed members of each to better understand their perspectives. 

The CCC niche group of public plant breeders and seed savers arose as a reaction to corporations and governments who put restrictions on plant breeding and seeds. These “restrainers,” as CCC members call them, use proprietary corporate licenses, strict regulation or onerous paperwork to control and privatize biological material. 

It became clear that whether CCC attendees saw the future as high-tech or low-tech, they could all agree on a botanical future that was free, open and more biodiverse.


Stop 5:

Where: Poland who: Aleksander What: Farmer

Max’s fifth stop was in Poland, where he spoke to Alexander – a potatoe farmer grappling with the complexities and challenges of adapting to evolving agricultural practices, while questioning the implications of these changes on his own identity and autonomy. The more Aleksander’s farm adapts to new requirements the less he’s sure what he is even farming. 

“I used to grow baking potatoes and soy for animal feed. Now my potatoes get processed into starch which is used to make vegan cheese sold in the cities. To be honest I have never eaten vegan cheese myself, and I am not so sure that I want to. 

I get annual payments to let my soy fields re-wild and become part of a natural habitat corridor. My biggest source of income is spreading basalt on my fields to soak up atmospheric carbon. It is just some minerals that a truck drops off once a week that end up washing into the ocean, and have nothing to do with me or my land. 

I enjoy listening to the songs of the species of birds that are returning each year, but I don’t feel like much of a farmer or like I have any freedom to make decisions for myself. 

My wife doesn’t like to see how the changes to our farm have made me less of an independent man and it sometimes feels like I am just taking orders from a computer or policymaker very far away. 

Sometimes it feels like these systems value a single insect or bird more than a human farmer.” Alexander Piotrowski.


Stop 6:

Where: Serbia Who: representatives from 4 different food perspectives What: A talk show about the future of flavour.

During Max’s sixth stop he explored the Future of Food in Belgrade, Stepping into the dynamic arena of The Future of Food talk show where Four distinct perspectives vied to shape the discourse on the evolving culinary landscape.

Max notes that it seems food is a playground for new possibilities and hybridities, but also a battleground of polarized identity politics.

Here are some highlights Max captured from the 4 different perspectives.

Gaian Gastronomy: “We want to reinvent food as a catalyst for environmental rejuvenation.” This visionary approach seeks to transform food into a force for environmental renewal, envisioning a gastronomic future deeply intertwined with sustainable practices.”

Alternative Proteins: “We wish the EU would be more supportive. Our automated indoor protein factories are optimized for efficiency and use less land & energy.” Advocates for a future where protein production is revolutionized through technology, emphasizing efficiency, and resource conservation.”

Whole Meat Nationalism: “We want meat-heavy, simple food just like grandma cooked and grandpa ate.” A nostalgic nod to tradition, this perspective champions the preservation of meat-centric, time-honored recipes, rooted in the simplicity and flavors of the past.”

Cottage Industrial Ecology: “Zero Waste, Infinite Flavor. AI supply chains update every 20 minutes, and all outputs are inputs for the next recipe.” Embracing a holistic, zero-waste approach, this perspective harmonizes traditional cottage industry values with cutting-edge AI, promising an endless array of flavors while minimizing environmental impact.”


Stop 7:

Where: Italy Who: Elena What: A philosopher

For Max’s sixth stop he visited Elena in Italy – The visionary behind the concept of “Air-Gapped Agriculture.” Elena believes that the ways we grow and eat today creates patterns which will resonate for at least 100 years.

“I had never worked as a farmer, but when the European Commision refused to ban the use of Glyphosate in agriculture—the herbicide known for being carcinogenic—I really became radicalized. I wanted to grow my own healthy food on my own land. But I knew that if this herbicide was going to be used for another decade, I had to put some space between my land, and farms that use Glyphosate. 

After thinking about this for some time, I wrote an essay called “Air-Gapped Agriculture.” It describes farms that put distance between themselves and any exposure to chemicals and microplastics from industrial agricultural. So that’s what I did! I built a movement in the watershed where I live, where we began air-gapping our land and  focusing on the “taste of place” in this bioregion.

Now my goal is working with others in Italy to transition as much arable land as possible towards agroecological systems that are less susceptible to exploitation or extraction.  While some Air-Gapped Agriculture practitioners embrace traditional methods, others experiment with AI and environmental DNA analysis to monitor biodiversity. This has led to philosophical divisions within the movement.” Elena Greco.


That concludes the December Musae presentation. While there is not a visual consistency throughout, we had fun experimenting with AI image generation to create different styles, colours and tones. As you may have noticed, there are multiple glitches (three arms, and other surreal anatomies) and lots of typos and nonsense letters. As seen with the “biodvesrse farmer” and multiple other typos, the AI is not able to handle text very well within image generation. We are not sure what direction it will take just yet, but now it is time to move beyond the experimentation phase and start to develop an artwork. There are many potential threads to pick up and weave together for the exhibition in Barcelona in April.

Rodmell Food Forest site visit: autumn rose hip ketchup.

November 13, 2023

At the end of September I went to visit my local food forest in Rodmell, East Sussex, UK to do some field research as part of the studio’s Food Forest Flavours x Minimum Viable Protein (FFF x MVP) project. 

The project explores harmonising the rhythms, flavours, and culinary possibilities of two complimentary but differently optimised farming typologies. 1 – Alternative proteins (MVPs) – systems that take a full technology-based approach to food production (think Plant-based meatballs, lab-grown burgers) and 2  –  Food forest flavours (FFFs) – the seasonal flavours of agroforestry projects that take years to establish and emphasise biodiversity, resilience and regeneration – (think fruits, leafy greens and wild herbs.)

I found Rodmell Food Forest to be a layered woodland habitat of tree canopies (like apple), bushes and shrubbery (like berry and rose) intertwined with beds of leafy greens, root vegetables and medicinal herbs and spices covering around 1 Acre. The layering and companion planting is key to creating the sustainable, self-regenerating cycle that mimics the forest ecosystem.

I met the head gardener pottering around the greenhouses who told me it had been growing for about 10 years. Growing entirely edible and medicinal plants all year round it is open to visitors every Wednesday who are free to explore, and procure the seasonal foods. Although it was late afternoon when I arrived, cars still seemed to be parking up to come and pick specific foods as though it was a local norm and they knew where in the garden to find it. Much the same as knowing which supermarket aisle to find your tuna – !

1: Procurement and recipe:

As Food forests create very different flavours throughout the year and across their lifetimes I was keen to capture a snapshot of the Rodmell Food forest flavours on the day of my visit from which to cook a condiment that would complement a minimum viable protein dish. 

I was looking to procure foods for a ketchup made entirely from ingredients I found with a focus on substitution leading to flavour experimentation – using the forest foods to guide the recipe. 

Before the visit I wondered what advice artificial intelligence would have for pairing flavour compounds between MVP’s and Forest foods, so I asked chat GPT for a ketchup recipe made from food forest foods in Sussex in September –  this is what it gave me. 

I wanted to see if I could gather those ingredients and if not – what substitutes I could find. Instead of vinegar, I found Rhubarb for the tart taste. Instead of tomatoes, I used rose hip. Instead of sugar, I found some sweet aniseed herbs called Sweet cicely, and lovage. Instead of garlic and onion (there were none left) I found celeriac for a peppery/sweet body of taste.

2: The Cook

To cook the Ketchup, I used the recipe that Chat GPT had given me as guidance.

I wanted to understand what kind of condiment ketchup would become if the traditional vinegar and sugar were absent and substituted with herbs and fruits of the forest, so I cooked up 2 batches to compare. 1 – using only the ingredients picked from the Rodmell that day, 2 – including shop-bought honey and vinegar – which is more in line with the traditional recipe and taste of ketchup. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 x cup rosehips
  • 1 x apple
  • ½ cup blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon oregano marjoram
  • ½ cup Sweet Cicely
  • ¼ cup Lovage
  • ½ cup celeriac leaves
  • ½ cup of water
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 4cl honey

The outcome:

The result was a complex, layered condiment with all the flavours of forest fruits and herbs. The fruitiness gave it a nod to pickled chutneys and jams or Umeboshi pickled plums, yet batch 2 also had the distinct acidic sweet flavour of ketchup.

Overall I would say batch 2 (adding vinegar and honey) was more successful in stepping in for a traditional ketchup condiment with the acidic punchyness that cuts through oily meats and MVPs. Batch 1 on the other hand –  although still tart due to the rhubarb, had a more fruity puree-like flavour. 

Both would be very at home on an MVP Charcuterie board bringing a complimentary forest tang to the earthy, fatty flavours of cultured meats, mushrooms and fermented soy and bean products. 

Sandor Katz Workshop (Trondheim)

November 25, 2022

The following field report was written by our newest collaborator Liz Dom a South African artist who currently resides in Trondheim, Norway and is helping the Center for Genomic Gastronomy produce the upcoming exhibition MEAT MORE MEAT LESS at TKM in February, 2023.

On September 8, 2022, a group of very excited fermenters and soon-to-be fermenters gathered at Jossa Mat og Drikke, described as “the little sister” of Michelin star Restaurant Credo, in Lilleby to learn from the undisputed master, Sandor Katz.

Katz started the workshop with a brief introduction to fermentation, where and how it appears (surprise! almost everywhere, in most foods) and why there’s a fermentation revival brewing. In the last century, as most eaters became increasingly distanced from most aspects of food production, so our traditions of sharing fermentation know-how generation on generation declined. However, a new generation, facing an imminent climate disaster, has turned to fermentation as a means of building resilience into—and relocalizing—food production and consumption.

Norway has a long history of fermentation, especially with regards to beer brewing, with use of the farmhouse yeast, kveik, from Western Norway – in fact, three prominent beer brewers were seated at my table. These three brewers were in their mid-thirties and an example of who is leading the fermentation resurgance. Many guests at Jossa that evening already had a fairly advanced knowledge of fermentation processes, asking complex questions. They want to reconnect with fermentation’s ability is a way to prolong shelf-life and increase nutritional value during very hard, cold winter months.

As the workshop progressed, Katz reminded us that Norwegian home architecture provides excellent fermentation conditions, like that of the cool, dry cellar, where sauerkraut  can easily last up to three years without the need for refrigeration.

So what can you ferment in Norway? Katz says anything, really, but certain vegetables just make a little bit more sense and will last longer. Cabbage and caraway are two traditional favorites, but root vegetables generally also fare well fermented, such as beets, carrots, rutabaga, onions and ginger, all locally grown.

Ketelbroek Food Forest Site Visit

December 16, 2021

From November 21-26, 2021, we visited the Veluwe region of the Netherlands for our first research trip for our STARTS4Water residency in collaboration with V2_. During the week we explored the local culinary scene, biked the Hoge Veluwe National Park, and visited regional museums which cover the topics of geology, biology, and water. A highlight of the trip was our visit to the Ketelbroek food forest with Wouter van Eck.

KETELBROEK FOOD FOREST: OVERVIEW

The Ketelbroek food forest is located in Groesbeek, a little south of the Veluwe region in the Gelderland province. The Food Forest was started in 2009 by Wouter van Eck and Pieter Jansen and now contains 32 food-producing species of plants on its 2.5 hectares (6 acres) of land. 

Surrounded by monocropped fields containing plants like corn for animal feed and rye, Ketelbroek food forest has a significant visual impact and ecosystem service impact. About a kilometer away, there is a heavily managed natural preserve, so the location of the food forest, situated between these two different landscapes (agricultural field and forest preserve), has made studying the biodiversity and water retention impacts of the food forest possible.

 

For example, the food forest has equivalent or higher counts of nesting birds, butterflies, and ground beetles. In 2016 when heavy rains struck, the food forest absorbed water and avoided major flooding while the neighboring fields were inundated and suffered greatly. During a drought in 2018, the surrounding fields were completely brown or required heavy watering while the food forest remained stable. Additionally, the food forest fixes more carbon annually than a field of crops on the same size plot.

FOOD FOREST PLANNING & MANAGEMENT

Wouter, our kind and knowledgeable host at the food forest likes to let the food forest manage itself as much as possible. He explained on a pre-visit video call that the goal was to let the forest behave, grow and cycle like any other “natural forest” would. The food forest is a “polyculture of perennial, woody species” that uses ecological principles to avoid the need for external inputs like fertilizer or pesticides. 

During our conversation, it became clear that the hard work Wouter does for the food forest probably happens before planting and/or outside of the food forest itself. Ketelbroek is a USDA hardiness zone 7a, meaning it gets fairly cold in the winter. To create a resilient forest, Wouter sourced plants and trees from various geographies—worldwide—that have similar climates to the Netherlands. In fact, out of 32 species, only two (chestnut and stinging nettles) are native to the area. The rest are either commonly grown non-natives, or specially selected varieties that thrive in Ketelbroek’s conditions. 

Although at first the forest appears to be sprouting in all directions, the construction plan of the food forest has been meticulously considered. Indeed, nothing – or almost – is placed randomly. While the hedges act as windbreaks and bird sanctuaries, the second row of trees, generally smaller, benefit from this protection from the wind but also from the shade created by the first row of trees. This way, each tree is given a spot that fulfills all its needs.

AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY, DATABASES OF TASTE & LAZY FARMING

The selection of trees includes fruit trees like peach, pawpaw, Japanese plums, and kaki, and nut trees like chestnut, hazelnut, walnut, heartnut, and hickory. Other edibles include gooseberry, Nanking cherry, and Siberian peatree. 

As our visit was in November, the food forest was somewhat dormant, re-energizing itself for spring, however even on that cold rainy day, we were able to taste a special Russian variety of kaki (persimmon), tongue-tingling sichuan peppers off the tree, and the caramel-like treat known as pheasant berry. Wouter partners with a chef on a project called “Botanical Gastronomy” to experiment in the kitchen with the unusual varieties (in the Netherlands) of plants grown in the food forest.

Wouter shared with us an inspiring moment he faced during his first years of working on the food forest: a caterpillar invasion. After considering using Green Soap (an non-toxic product originally made out of hemp oil for household cleaning) to get rid off them, he finally decided not to do anything, as his instinct of “lazy farmer” (as he likes to call himself) was telling him to do. A few weeks later, Wouter happily found out that the caterpillars were gone, eaten by a new species of bird who decided to nest in the food forest. “Sometimes, you should just let nature do it”. 

While the Ketelbroek food forest contributes to biodiversity, water retention (draught/flood tolerance), carbon fixing, and food production, it has also been used to push for policy changes and funding that legitimize this form of agriculture under Dutch law, and to normalize this in the “Green Deal” initiative in Europe.

THE LONG VIEW

Food forestry can require a kind of long-term thinking that most of us struggle with. Wouter will plant fast-growing trees to provide vegetation and maintain soil health for other trees that grow slower. For example, tree species that will live for only 10 or 20 years surround a Korean Pine Nut sapling that will grow slowly, living somewhere around 1200 years—carrying on the food forest long after we’re gone.

IMAGE from: How to Plant a Food Forest

ANTI-SMOG GUNS TO FIGHT AIR POLLUTION IN NEW DELHI

December 10, 2021

In order to improve the national capital’s air quality, the Delhi government has recently decided to install anti-smog guns at major construction sites and key intersections across the city.
An anti-smog gun sprays tiny droplets of atomized (high-pressured) water into the air, creating artificial mist. Those small water droplets stick to pollutants transported by air and bring them to the ground. Anti-smog guns can spray water up to a height of 50 meters to settle dust particles and PM 2.5, a fine particulate matter that can be very harmful for people’s health if present in the air at high levels. In fact, the value registered at Anand Vihar, a railway station in East Delhi was 380, being 15 times higher than the safe maximum of the World Health Organization.

The introduction of these mist cannons across the city sparked debate among several parties.
Although the manufacturer, Cloud Tech, claims that the anti-smog gun can clear up to 95% of the pollutants in the air, Greenpeace argues that the introduction of these water cannons is just a distraction from the real causes of air pollution in Delhi. Moreover, they come with a huge toll on the environment as each water cannon blasts about 100 liters of water every minute.

D. Saha, scientist at the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) also pointed out that such mist cannons are not effective for very fine particles and that the limited radius of 25 to 50 meters in which the anti-smog gun sprays water is very underwhelming compared to the scale of the situation: “This system can’t be applied in an area like Delhi, it can only work in a confined area like a stadium and not in open areas. Even to control dust, it would take at least 50,000 such machines to control bigger particles in the air across Delhi, which has an area of 1,484 square kilometres.”

Although gentrification has been singled out for many years as the cause of poor air quality in India’s largest cities, Delhi’s municipality also started pointing out agricultural practices as another source of air pollution. Farmers tend to burn their agricultural waste in order to clear cropland, which also contributes to the stuffy haze crowding up in the air.

Even though opinions are divided as to the cause of this pollution, everyone agrees that air quality is the poorest in winter. Air pollution in winter remains in place for much longer and therefore is breathed in at a higher rate than during the summer. Indeed, cold air is denser and moves slower than warm air, which means that cold air traps the pollution coming from open fires, car exhausts, crop burning, industrial emissions and construction dust but also doesn’t whisk it away.

In February we will host a Guided Smog Smelling meditation session in Delhi as part of our research project Smog Tasting. This event will be part of a festival organized by KHOJ called “Does the Blue Sky Lie?: Testimonies of Air’s Toxicities”.
The purpose of Guided Smog Smelling is to activate our bodies, lungs and sense of smell and to experience, with intention, the unique atmospheric moment we are living through. As this performance will be situated next to a site that has anti-smog guns, we are interested to learn from participants whether they change -or not- the flavor of the site.

Image credits: The Times of India

1 2 3 20

CURRENT & UPCOMING

November 18, 2021 - December 12, 2021
Grafill, risography exhibition, Oslo, NO
October 24 - November 21, 2019
ClimATE, Aalto University, Espoo, FI.
March 1, 2018
Climate Fiction PT
October 21 - 29, 2017
Dutch Design Week: Embassy of Food
October 19 - 21, 2017
Experiencing Food (Lisbon)
Nov. 5 - Apr. 2, 2016
2116: Forecast of the Next Century
Nov. 5th, 2016
KiKK Festival Workshop