Sustainability and Biomimicry #3

This is a series of posts made up of a course in school on sustainability and biomimicry. My class was divided into groups and each group was given an animal to design for. My group got the earthworm. Our assignment was to figure out what the earthworms need and how to give it to them. We studied the earthworms from both a macro and micro perspective to understand what role they have in our ecosystem and how they function in themselves.

In our first round of ideas, we drew objects that would use the earthworm for the benefit of humans. This was not the purpose of the assignment. These designs also made us mean people as they did not consider what effect they had on the worms. We needed a new perspective.

“Who is benefiting from this multi-species design?”

Among us humans, who lives closely with the earth? Who depends on the soil’s health for his/her own well-being and livelihood? Who directly affects the soils the most? Farmers.

What do farmers do that affects the habitat and life of earthworms? Farmers plow, dig, weed, and harvest crops. They use fertilizers and pesticides.

There are commercial farmers who use a so-called no-plowing method, meaning they do not plow as regular farmers do (machines, depths, regularity) but they still scoop up the soil and turn it over in order to plant their seeds. The machines they use impact the soil and are heavy, which compact the earth.

Sketches on lightweight machines that sow seeds just below the surface.
Static and mobile vibration warnings systems for the farmer to warn the worms before they cultivate the land.

“Who is benefiting from this multi-species design?”

We realized these warning systems were still in favor of the human. These designs still made us mean towards the earthworms. We needed something different.

Site visit

We went on a site visit to a no-tilling farm one hour outside Stockholm. They are a cooperative farm that calls themselves Under Tallarna, which translates to Underneath the Pine Trees. 🙂 We got to meet with Ossian who founded the farm. He showed us around and shared his experiences and knowledge on no-till farming.

They use no machines. The tractor they have is a gift and only used for transporting the crops. They do not remove the weeds, they simply cover them for a few months so that they die but remain in place. This makes the soil more nutritious and they do not destroy the very important fungi (transport nutrients in the soil) nor the important tunnels made by the earthworms. The tunnels actually aerate and drain the soil naturally and as earthworms go about making them they transport natural matter down into the deeper layers of the soil since they go up to feed and down again to eat and poop. 🙂

Overview of the farm and the yellow greenhouse.
Tarpaulin to cover the soil and deprive the weeds of sunlight. As they die their root systems and their natural matter turn into nutrients for the soil and coming plants.
The rows are made out of wood chips gifted from a lumberyard. The mulch is then laid in rows and planted in.
Ossian showing us the plant’s roots.
Bokashi composting barrels.
Wood chips for making pathways between the planting beds.
The tractor that was gifted to them. They use it for initial plowing when they truly have to, but mainly to transport crops.
The greenhouse kitchen.
The greenhouse.