By 2115, it’s possible that a megadrought might end most agriculture in California, blistering summers might move wine production out of Italy, and rising sea levels might wipe out rice crops in Bangladesh. The future of farming is uncertain. As agriculture shifts, so will technology.
In a new project, artist Kaitlyn Schwalje looks at three imagined products that respond to changes in agriculture a century from now.
“I chose 100 years as a not-too-distant future,” Schwalje says. “It serves as a theatrical platform on which to play out emerging discoveries and contemporary discourse on everything affecting agricultural production, from policy to climate change.”
The designs are science fiction but based in reality. “Each future has a footing in emerging research, and speaks to the human species’ tendency to manipulate the environment for its own gain,” explains Schwalje.
A “precision weather modification device” imagines that farmers could trigger rain over a field of crops by launching a simple gadget, based on methods of cloud-seeding that are already in use today in places like China.
An “aural insecticide” uses sound to make plants release natural insect repellents. The concept is based on new research that shows some crops respond to the vibrations of certain insects by protecting themselves. Ultimately, it might serve as an alternative to the heavy use of chemical pesticides.
Schwalje also imagines that a gene gun–a device that already exists in labs to inject genes into cells–might be stolen by ecoterrorists and used to spread genes in a field that could quickly kill entire crops.
While none of these scenarios will necessarily happen, Schwalje hopes that by looking at the physical objects, people might be more likely to consider the possibilities. “It is an attempt at developing the adequate imagery to dream–to imagine the future we wish to live in and to make decisions today to approach those visions,” she writes in a statement.
“I hope this work brings ridicule and excitement,” she says. “And that within the agreement or disagreement of the project emerges a desire to declare one’s own vision of tomorrow, and the ownership to shape that tomorrow.”