Architecture meets agriculture: Visitors to become digital farmers at Italy's food theme park

by Kim Megson | 08 Aug 2016
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
– Carlo Ratti

Visitors to a forthcoming food theme park in Italy will be able to grow their own food on-site in a futuristic pavilion designed by architecture and innovation firm Carlo Ratti Associati.

The attraction, called the Area of the Future, will be one of the centrepieces of FICO Eataly World, an 80,000sq m (861,000sq ft) edutainment park focused on food-production and nutrition currently under construction in Bologna.

Visitors to the circular pavilion will be guided to a large-scale vegetable garden where they can plant their own organic crops following advice from a digitally-augmented system.

Seeds will be placed in a hydroponic tank full of nutrients and water, but without soil. The tank will then slide fluidly around the farm, as if on a conveyer belt, to demonstrate the vegetables inside at different stages of growth.

Once a person plants a seed, an online device will match their profile with it. They can then connect to the farm digitally using an Eataly World app to follow their plant's development, which will be tracked by biologic sensors. When the vegetable is 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 checking on its progress each day,” said studio founder Carlo Ratti. “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.

“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.”

The studio hope the protoypical pavilion will prove “a disruptive influence” on the food industry by showing how advances in digital technology can pave the way for collaborative farming and even let us grow our own organic food at supermarkets. The concept and design has been informed by Ratti’s research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Area of the Future is currently under construction and will be inaugurated in 2017.

Eataly World – which is being developed by Italian food giant Eataly in collaboration with the Bologna Agri-Food Market – will include markets, laboratories, breeding farms, a convention centre, 20 restaurants and 4,000sq m (43,000sq ft) of exhibition halls for cultural and educational initiatives related to food.

Eately founder Oscar Farinetti said: “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.

“Ultimately, we are pursuing a human-centred type of innovation, and that’s why we have chosen to work with Carlo Ratti Associati on this pavilion project.”

Architectur  agriculture  FICO Eataly World  Carlo Ratti  Italy  Bologna 
Visitors to a forthcoming food theme park in Italy will be able to grow their own food on-site in a futuristic pavilion designed by architecture and innovation firm Carlo Ratti Associati. The attraction, called the Area of the Future, will be one of the centrepieces of FICO Eataly World, an 80,000sq m (861,000sq ft) edutainment park focused on food-production and nutrition currently under construction in Bologna. Visitors to the circular
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Visitors to the circular pavilion will be guided to a large-scale vegetable garden where they can plant their own organic crops / Carlo Ratti Associati
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