Michael Doherty: the aquaponics artist

6th May, 2014 by Anna Simpson

Get the aesthetics right, and new approaches to food production will be more palatable to the public.

The artist Michael Doherty is working with aquaponic systems, where plants and fish are brought into a symbiotic relationship, each providing nutrients for the other. “It’s like a hanging garden”, he explains. “The tank with the fish is at the bottom and the water is pumped up to the top, where it flows down through vessels that contain edible plants. The waste from the fish is decomposed by bacteria and becomes nutrients which the plants need.”

Doherty’s aim is to create such systems in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, drawing on materials such as clay and wood, and working with artists and artisans. He wants to bring this new approach to growing food into public realms in such a way that it will be appreciated, and therefore accepted.

“If it’s beautiful, people will get more excited about it, and it will therefore be easier to integrate within the culture. If all they see is a lot of PVC pipes, there’ll be a lot of negativity. It’s important to make it something that people will want to have in their homes or workplaces.”

I met Doherty in Singapore, during his residence at the ArtScience Museum in 2013. “Here, 90% of the food is imported”, he remarked. “There’s a huge disconnection between food and how it is produced. When people here plant a seed and see it grow, and in a few weeks find they have a head of lettuce, it’s like magic to them. I’m really excited about reconnecting people with the science of food production.” – Anna Simpson

Photo credit: Marina Bay Sands

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