This is peak self-sufficiency.
Aroussiak Gabrielian, a landscape architecture professor at the University of Southern California, has created the world’s first wearable farm, which can grow a variety of fresh produce using fertilizer supplied by your own human waste. Her eco-friendly invention debuted last month in Beijing, as part of “Human (un)limited,” a hybrid art and technology exhibition to showcase forward-thinking works with the aim of enhancing human life.
Gabrielian’s project, called “Posthuman Habitats,” was inspired in part by her dystopian vision of the future — rife with degraded soil, skies shrouded in smog and depleted water sources.
“On the global level, it’s addressing issues of human food security, but really . . . it tries to imagine possible futures for living more cooperatively with the nonhuman world, because the organisms, microorganisms, the predators and pollinators are all creatures that not only help but are integral to the growing of our food,” Gabrielian told Fast Company.
Her fashionable landscape is presented in the form of a vest, made of a seed-filled felt that retains moisture. The farmed garment has a built-in system to divert the wearer’s sweat and urine — filtered via osmosis — into the garden bed, as well as waste deposited by the insects and organisms that will inevitably make the green vest their home.
Just one of Gabrielian’s prototypes provided 20 pounds of food from 40 different vegetables in just a few weeks, including cabbage, arugula, broccoli rabe, kale, peanuts, peas, mushrooms, strawberries and herbs like sage, rosemary and lemon thyme. But the vest’s primary crop was microgreens, also called young lettuces, which have the added benefit of having 40 times the concentration of nutrients as their full-grown counterparts.
Gabrielian demonstrated the prototype by donning it for a presentation at the American Academy of Rome recently.
“It’s warm but it’s also moist. It’s heavy. It really puts you into very haptic contact with [the] live matter of landscape,” she said. The somewhat imposing wearing experience, she hopes, will help people appreciate their food and how it’s grown on a deeper level.
“The hope is to awaken [people] from the kind of passive position they’ve taken on climate issues, to realize what extremes humanity might have to go to to survive,” she said. “It’s not trying to solve the food problem or the soil problem, but bring the issues around the environmental crisis into the palpable scale of the body.”
The idea also plays on human nature and our tendency to look out for ourselves, foremost.
“Because the cloaks would be safeguarding our own survival, we’re kind of forced to take care of the plant life and the animal life that would be necessary to get our crops to grow,” Gabrielian said. “It’s taking that selfish attitude and putting it to use.”