Using Technology To Grow Diverse, Polyculture Food Systems

Last week I wrote about how diversity was key to sustainable agriculture, but noted how hard it can be for a culture based on linear production to wrap our heads around more complex natural systems and how to manage them. That's especially true if you are trying to grow something for the commercial marketplace. We've already seen some useful design tips for edible polycultures, but what if we could use computer mapping technologies to better understand and nurture diverse inter-planted crops? Stephanie Gerson, writing over at Food+Tech, has been working on a system to do just that, using the web to better understand polycultural permaculture guilds:

In terms of user experience, users would begin by entering settings, denoting their constraints and preferences, e.g. climate zone, size of plot, preferences for food/medicinal crops, etc. Based on these settings, as with the Visual Thesaurus, users would identify a core element, say a peach tree, which would become orbited by 'synonymous' i.e. companion organisms. Clicking on different companion organisms would generate different polycultural configurations, enabling users to iteratively and experimentally design guilds. Clicking on a link between organisms would elicit information about the ecological relationship between them, nitrogen-fixing or otherwise.

Looks like a fascinating project and one to watch. Anyone know of anything similar?

Tags: Agriculture | Biodiversity | Permaculture

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