Eating sunlight: Algaculture suit proposes symbiotic bond between humans and algae

BurtonNitta
© BurtonNitta

Imagine being able to eat sunlight, much like plants. British and Japanese artist-designers Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta are proposing just that with their Algaculture Symbiosis Suit, an alternative way to fuel the body which would allow the user to consume nutrients through a photosynthetic process.

© BurtonNitta

The duo describe the concept as being derived from a convergence of science in light of the current realities of a problematic food system:

Algaculture designs a new symbiotic relationship between humans and algae. It proposes a future where humans will be enhanced with algae living inside new bodily organs, allowing us to be semi-photosynthetic. Almost enabling us to become plant-like by gaining food from light. As such, we will be symbionts (meaning that both entities entirely depend on each other for survival), entering into a mutually beneficial relationship with the algae.

© BurtonNitta

Like certain salamanders, which have evolved to be photosynthetic vertebrates, Burton and Nitta imagine a near-future where suits will be used, and a "far future" where human bodies will be enhanced to accommodate new ways of fuelling themselves:

This scenario is, among other sources, inspired by the work of scientists Debora MacKenzie and Michael Le Page who wrote about photosynthetic creatures, or what they call “plantimals” in the New Scientist (2010). [..]

Why design new food on what we have now, when we could re-design how we fuel the body altogether?

Burton and Nitta debuted this intriguing, biotechnological concept last year at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, where the carbon dioxide breathed by an opera singer is used to feed algae, which can be in turn eaten by humans. The quality of the algae depends on the song of the singer, and it's a kind of "sonic enhancement of food where different pitches and frequencies make food taste either bitter or sweet."

© BurtonNitta
© BurtonNitta

Like previous proposals that envision humans wearing toxin-clearing, bio-remediating suits of mushrooms, this is fascinating, futuristic idea. More over at BurtonNitta.

Tags: Agriculture | Algae

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