Autonomous Agriculture

Design project, 2016
Commissioned by BIO25 Biennial of Design in Ljubljana
In the permanent collection of MAK Design Lab Vienna
Photo credits: Delfino Sisto Legnani & Marco Cappelletti

Automation is entering all aspects of services and prodution, and agriculture, too, is becoming increasingly digitalised and automated. To a certain extent, robots, digital sensing, and algorithmic predictions in agriculture are already commonplace. New technologies and systems such as the blockchain and the Internet of things give machines the capability to operate even more independently, to communicate, and to make
transactions by themselves.

Autonomous Agriculture investigates how increased automation could lead to new economic and social systems in the countryside, dominated by a symbiosis between nature and digital technology. Once manufactured and placed in the countryside, Internet-connected planning and harvesting robots form part of an autonomous network of agricultural machines, operated by an algorithm.  
These machines work as an independent business with no human employees, planting and harvesting what is deemed profitable according to predictive algorithms.
The collected food is sold to people online and paid for with digital money. The robots acquire required maintenance via the Internet, also with digital money, and are serviced by humans or other robots. They then continue
their work, eventually accumulating enough capital to buy the land they are working on. One solar-powered robot harvests the healthly and drinkable sap of a birch tree, and a group of autonomous robots collects
snails in a field to decrease the need for pesticides and to sell them as a delicacy. The project explores the idea of non-anthropocentric agriculture, in which the power structure is changed. People also become a tool for the machine, rather than the machine merely a tool for people.