Space Farming Project



HOWEST, PTI Kortrijk, Flemish Ministry For Culture

Within the framework of the Orbit Space program, artist Angelo Vermeulen (SEAD) was invited by Gluon to develop the Space Farming Project.

In order to sustain human life for extended periods of time in deep space one cannot solely rely on support from Earth. It’ll be essential to become self-sustaining through a combination of in situ resource utilization, waste recycling, and space farming. The latter can provide astronauts and colonists with locally grown food and biogenic oxygen, and will be an indispensable component of any future outpost in deep space. The type of agriculture that will develop itself in outer space will be extremely technologically mediated because of limited resources and the hostile conditions in which crops have to be cultivated. From a biopolitics perspective, this will cause a significant shift in power relations. Because of the extreme dependence on technology, the lack of open reservoirs (e.g., no atmosphere), and an atomized commodification of life-supporting resources (every molecule is valuable), space colonists will live in a world in which they are potentially vulnerable to inequalities, power concentrations, and even coercion. Historically, colonization and agriculture have always worked with each other. But in the unparalleled conditions of space, this dialectic relationship is bound to take on new contours, with its own unique set of ideologies and ensuing ethical conflicts.

The Space Farming Project is a community art project that specifically explores these issues. Together with a diverse community of volunteering technologists, agricultural researchers, teachers, and students, different space biology prototypes have been developed: a microgravity simulator, a centrifuge for plant cultivation in space, and bioreactors for growing plant callus and microalgae. These prototypes represent an open source response to the question how we can create more direct ownership over the biopolitics that are inevitably being developed in outer space. They open up the possibility of reconceptualizing space colonization and reimagining life-supporting ecologies. The different prototypes form the core elements of a larger art installation that includes visual and discursive references to the history and future of colonization, and especially its entwinement with agriculture.

It was initiated by the international SEAD collective, developed in collaboration with Gluon, Howest and PTI Kortrijk, and supported by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.