Design+Science: Synthetic Foods
The first Design+Science summer school, organized by the UL ALUO, UL FKKT and the PiNA – Association for Culture and Education, took place in Ljubljana and Koper and opened up crucial social issues about the accelerated development of laboratory food and the future of biotechnology. We ran it hybrid, which means we ran the program both live and online.
The summer school brought together design and science, and participants from different countries raised questions about the environment and the presence of synthetic food. Food is the fundamental resource that organisms or creatures use to survive, sustain life and grow. From this perspective, humans are fundamentally slightly different from other organisms, as we paradoxically exploit their existence for our growth and survival. The facts that present the 21st century are less than negligible; prolongation of weather temperatures and extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, inadequate waste management, and water scarcity consequently affect yields. Human demand has already exceeded the supply of meat products and other commonly used sources of protein. [source: bit.ly/3hFgrAS]
Between 5 and 9 July 2021, as many as 23 young people from Slovenia, Canada, India, Germany, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Austria, and Hong Kong and their mentors questioned whether humanity was ready to understand that we would need to change our eating habits and what are the mechanisms that address this kind of transformation?
The workshops were led by established top visual communication designers – Sara Lunder (Google), Nejc Prah (Ansambel/Ensemble), and Emil Kozole (Ljudje/People).
They shared their views on the importance and future of food, which served as excellent starting points for the participants in the development of their project, with the participants:
• master chef Jorg Zupan (Breg, Atelje),
• world-famous writer and culinary critic Andrea Petrini,
• director of the Chair of Fermentation Engineering at the University of Bielefeld Karl Friehs,
• designer and connoisseur of permaculture Aleš Pustovrh,
• director of the various European Capitals of Culture Chris Baldwin,
• freelance food designer and researcher Giulia Soldati,
• creative industry developer Sholeh Johnston,
• researcher and assistant professor at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana dr. Marina Klemenčič and many others.
The summer school ended with presentations by the participants, who were divided into three groups. In addition, a panel of experts (professors of visual communications from European universities) and individuals who encounter the creative industries daily also attended the final presentation.
Three excellent project proposals are the result of the summer school
The Green dorm project is a multi-purpose space that manifests the experience of growing and nurturing food (both synthetic and organic) and envisages a pilot implementation on a university campus where students would be encouraged to grow their own food and socialise while sharing their meal or recipe. The project offers a vision for a service with great potential for dissemination and builds on values based on the »zero waste« formula and the circular economy.
Cow are you? project activities deal with the issue of non-transparent information on new technologies that contribute to general mistrust and the spread of untruths. The group has developed various approaches that inform people about the benefits and dangers of synthetic food and are very diverse in terms of content and target audience: artistic interventions, guerrilla actions, cooking meetings, and curricula.
The speculative project Nutria presents a new model of the food industry, which allows everyone to print their own synthetic food. This can be achieved through a new kitchen appliance consisting of a bioreactor and a bio-printer that prints delicious and nutritious protein foods. In this way, it would be possible to reduce the power of corporations and take a big step towards more responsibly produced and accessible food.
Participant responses were above expectations
At the end of the summer school, one of the participants shared his experience with us: »I am delighted to have been a part of the summer school. It was a great week, full of learning and teamwork. The school stimulated my even greater interest in the synthetic food and food industries. I have a desire to continue to work together and learn more. And of course, thank you for this wonderful experience.«