New work

January 22, 2012

I know, it has been a long time since my last post. But amongst other things, I started my new project for which I was researching and photographing the landscape of modern farming.

I decided to do a project about this topic after I came across a picture of a modern milking parlour last year. I was so amazed by all the high tech involved, and became conscious that I don’t know much about farming these days or where actually my food is coming from.

I was surprised to find apples on dwarf trees, tomatoes not grown in soil but on rock wool; green houses heated by the waste heat of nearby nuclear plants, chicken reared in 42 days from chick to chicken; salad grown without sunlight; and cows milked on carousels.

It sounds almost like science fiction but after quite a bit of research and meeting many farmers I realized how high and complex the expectations of agriculture are today. Supermarkets and consumer demand increasingly lower prices combined with higher quality and a better look of products. Fruits, vegetables or meat have to have a perfect colour, seize, shape, and taste. They should be available all year long and ideally locally grown (strawberries in winter, tomatoes from Germany) without damaging the environment.

To remain competitive farmers are advised to use the newest science and the latest technology to boost their production. As a result farms become bigger, more technical, more computerized, and make often use of special developed plants and animals.

So how does a contemporary farm look like? What science and technology are involved? In my project I am attempting to capture  the above to create a vision of farming at the beginning of the 21st century in Europe.

Below are a few scans of images I have taken so far.

© Freya Najade

Cress, tomatoes, cucumbers, or salad are grown in closed systems just with LED lights. There is no sunlight and no direct exchange of air with the outside. Day and night, summer and winter stop existing. Humans are able to determine the shape, taste and colour of plants and fruits. They can be grown anywhere from the desert to inside of restaurants and supermarkets.

© Freya Najade

Salad is grown in a stacking system to provide a maximum use of space. Plants grow inside of plastic trays without soil. A conveyer belt is moving the plants to ensure they get all round sunlight. Waste, water and nutrients are collected, purified, and recycled. Essential nutrients are added to the plants roots. The whole growing process is computer controlled. The system currently produces around 112 lettuces per square metre, on a 3m high system.

© Freya Najade

Since the mid 1990s the consumption of chicken has increased by 75 percent worldwide. Chicken are often reared in barns. One chicken barn has the capacity to rear 50.000 chickens. There are up to 16 barns in each location, which allows one settlement to rear around 800.000 chickens simultaneously.

© Freya Najade

8 people are needed per shift to cater for the 800.000 chickens and to keep the facility running. The chickens live for a period of 42 days. After 42 days they achieve the desired weight for slaughtering. They are brought to the nearby processing plant. The chicken barn gets cleaned and disinfected, ready for the new chicks to come.

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