Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If it can't be made at home, maybe it can be made in transit

For years I've been waiting for someone to invent the energy-efficient refrigerator that grows food instead of just storing it. I always imagine the outside door full of plants that are both edible and beautiful. My own year-round greens and micro-greens garden, some heirloom tomatoes and beans, a few organic mushrooms grown in a dark section at the bottom... Perfect!

Well, it doesn't look like my fridge will be happening anytime soon, but I'm always interested in organic, local and sustainable agricultural processes. Enter the future of fungal freshness: Agata Jaworska's thesis project Made in Transit, "a supply chain concept in which the food grows on board a vehicle on the way to the supermarket, shifting the paradigm of packaging from preserving freshness to enabling growth, and shifting ‘best before’ to ‘ready by'." (via)

I have some concerns about the labour repercussions--a local organic farm employs and trains dozens of young people every year--but I appreciate Jaworska's explicit acknowledgment that the Made in Transit concept is complementary to, and not a replacement for, other kinds of production. I also agree with her that it raises interesting and important questions about sustainability and the relation between local and global systems:

"Developments in local agriculture can go on as normal, just as developments in my mother’s garden will also go on as normal. For this project I was interested in tackling global chains and wondered if they could be done differently, and indeed address their sustainability...Indeed, next time a kid asks me where mushrooms come from, I’ll have to tell him that they may soon come from trucks...And is this a utopia or a dystopia? Well it’s not as romantic as going to the forest but I hope it turns out to be more sustainable than the way it is currently done, given our global state of affairs. I think it shows that sustainability is not as clear cut as one would think, and dare I say, that local is not always better than global?"

The whole interview is worth reading. If you're looking for more visuals, I'm not sure the accompanying two-minute animation does the concept justice, but Jaworska's recent presentation at a Pecha Kucha event in Rotterdam starts to get at the kind of details that allow us to imagine the potential of her vision:

YouTube: Made in Transit at Pecha Kucha

Packaging geeks can also get more info on the growing containers in this Culiblog post. And even if you're not that kind of geek, it's a great blog all-around so why not check out the entries in the locative food and urban agriculture categories?

And last but not least, if food and culture interest you as much as they interest me, I can highly recommend a subscription to Gastronomica, a brilliant journal on food and culture.

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