Mandeville Community Food Wall
Officially opened in Spring 2019, this modular and easily expandable "Green Wall" addresses the challenges of growing food in an urban environment without disrupting the fast-paced flow of life around it.
Initially developed as the first of a generation, this proof-of-concept system allowed for rapid prototyping and development of various systems including CSA's first auto-watering controls. Furthermore, this grow wall helped bring issues of food insecurity and alternative farming methods into the limelight on campus, as it was installed in a very central location that thousands of students and hundreds of visitors pass on a daily basis.
This project was built using Zipgrow Towers, a vertical farming system designed by Bright Agrotech, and aimed to provide some relief to the Triton Food Pantry by offering an additional source of locally-grown greens. By installing this in a public place with several local businesses, the needs of our student body and a commercial partner could be satisfied simultaneously. Our project is a multidisciplinary collaboration to provide students valuable work experience ranging from the visual arts to the public installation to the computer engineering/science needed to program the microcontrollers to make the community wall a smart, self-sustainable system that consumes little water.
The Community Food Wall is an integrated public art and applied research project on UC San Diego; it produces food while transforming the highly trafficked public space it occupied in ways that create opportunities for civically-engaged research and learning. The Community Food Wall has three significant dimensions: 1) the socio-cultural and aesthetic dimension, 2) an interdisciplinary field collaboration dimension, and 3) social entrepreneurial business model dimension. We join these dimensions in a way that blends research, learning, and action.
The university is growing and establishing itself as an independent, small scale city which emulate the urban city as a whole. The universities becoming its own entity in a physical and social space become an experimental ground to visualize a tangible observation of the university-community relationship. By installing a meaningful visual art installation in a highly active public space, we conceptualize a new way to utilize public space as an engaging space dedicated to both agriculture and social gathering usage. Our on-site research establishes a platform for a multidisciplinary field work which includes visual arts, computer engineering, and business to create a smart, self-sustainable vertical farming system that consumes little water through the use of microcontrollers in a highly dense community. We have designed an entrepreneurship business model centered on profitable sustainability which creates profit on selling products to commercial vendors while donating food to the student basic need centers. As we shape the university-community relationship to solve issues surrounding food security, we need to intersect many ecologies to implement changes on multidimensional scale.