March 6, 2024

Distributed Food Factory: Open Source Solutions For The Circular Transition of Food Systems

Distributed Food Factory is an experimental initiative conceived by Polifactory, the makerspace Fab Lab of the Politecnico di Milano, to explore the connection between Distributed Design and food systems at local level. It aims to design innovative open-source solutions stimulating the circular transition of the local food systems supporting the development of product-services, processes, and systemic solutions that enable individuals and organizations to track and monitor quality and biodiversity food systems at a ‘macro’ level and at a ‘micro’ level, where food transformations are facilitated by microorganisms. Fourteen designers, selected through the Open Call for Ideas, ideate three concepts of fermenters and distillers working three months as makers in residence at Polifactory, which collaborate with them in developing Open Farmer Kit, 3ee, and Circle Fermenter projects. 

Open Farmer Kit is a modular open-source station designed to monitor environmental parameters and biodiversity in small-scale urban farming spaces. Conceived by Valentino Stella and developed with Lorenzo Silvestri, Matteo Mojoli, and Davide Formenti, in collaboration with Polifactory, Open Farmer Kit aims to transfer the benefits of precision agriculture into more social forms of urban farming. This promotes the transition towards collaborative agricultural practices supported by open science. It is a semi-automated system powered by renewable energy sources that operates flexibly, allowing data sampling from different areas of interest. Constructed with easily obtainable electronic components and technologies available in makerspaces, it has a low cost, facilitating adoption and use by end-users. Indeed, Open Farmer Kit offers the opportunity to create local networks for monitoring biodiversity and the health of agricultural ecosystems distributed in cities, facilitating the generation of open data useful to local communities.

3ee is an open-source system based on acoustic technologies for the identification, classification, and monitoring of pollinator species in the environment, especially in urban contexts. Developed by Martina Comola, Cemre Ercan, Chiara Guarino, Valerio Libardo, and Andrea Somenzi in collaboration with Polifactory, the project focuses on creating a distributed system of smart bughotels made of clay through 3D LDM printing. The bughotel modules have varied volumes with specific and customizable entrances to accommodate various pollinator species and promote the growth of moss in humidity niches. This aspect facilitates tracking the presence of insects and contributes to their sustenance. 3ee thus offers the possibility of creating cohabited micro-ecosystems of animal and plant species, integrating with different monitoring systems for environmental conditions and biodiversity, such as Open Farmer Kit.

Circle Fermenter, conceived by Arianna Bosco, Matteo Cappellari, Vincenzo Cassano, Elena Gasparrini, and Qianhuai Zeng, is an open-source modular fermenter that allows experimenting with new processes and techniques related to the self-production of fermented foods.

Exploiting the metabolic processes of fungal organisms, the project introduces new active agents into food systems, defining a scenario that explores and promotes a symbiotic collaborative relationship between humans and microorganisms, where food self-production is the result of a shared activity. Simple and economical to build, easy to configure, and versatile in its experimental use, Circle Fermenter promotes the spread of circular production processes for healthy and environmentally friendly foods.

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