Something & Son is a London based practice founded by British artists Andrew Merritt and Paul Smyth. Their work is rooted in an inquisitiveness and experimentation and reflects their varied backgrounds and shared passion for art, engineering, social systems, and the environment.
Situated on the rooftop of the Glassworks (Folkestone Academy’s sixth form building in the heart of Folkestone town) artists and inventors Something & Son have designed Amusefood. This new rooftop installation mixes innovative green technology with playful, interactive design.
The idea for the installation is a reaction to the decline of the English seaside as a holiday destination combined with the experiments from the artists' project FARM:shop in London where food is both grown indoors and then sold on the premises. The installation investigates both the future of food production by growing the ingredients for the British national dish of fish and chips along with the idea of bringing back new kinds of seaside amusements. This was a prominent feature of Folkestone until 2003 when the famous seaside Rotunda was demolished.
At first, the structure appears to be a simple polytunnel-style greenhouse. But, as visitors approach the entrance, the facade begins to recall the town's past as a major holiday destination, deceptively resembling a traditional seaside fish and chip shop. However, once inside, there are no deep fat fryers and no tantalising smell of a fish and chip supper. Instead, visitors are confronted with an alternative idea for producing that very same meal.
A system of aquaponics fills the polytunnel. This is a closed-loop growth system for fish, chips and minted mushy peas. The fish live in tanks on the floor of the greenhouse. Their nitrogen-rich wastewater is pumped through a series of pipes through vertical hanging columns where the potato, pea and mint plants are growing. The columns allow for maximum crop yield from smaller spaces. This offers an alternative to the customary manner of soil grown plants, which require a great deal of floor space. The plants clean and naturally recycle the water, which is then pumped back into the fish tanks. Unlike traditional greenhouses, the system is automated and requires a minimal amount of effort to look after.
As the nights draw in, the greenhouse illuminates with low-energy LED lighting providing essential light for the plants and echoing Folkestone's splendid past as a popular tourist hot spot, glittering with the bright lights of the funfair and amusement arcades.
The idea is entirely experimental, but if it works it will create a template for food production that the artists will share freely. So, it can be easily replicated the world over, and can be used as a way for a community with limited space and limited means to produce their own food sustainably. During Folkestone Triennial 2014, the greenhouse will be a focal point for educating people about sustainable methods of food production, engaging local school pupils, residents and visitors from far and wide.