Rotifer Farm (2012)

Rotifer Farm Installation. 1:1 scale model. Glass, acrylic, water pump & live Bdelloid rotifers.
7. Spore chamber_RS
Microbial Spore Storage Unit: Rotifers can be dried into seed-like spores that can lay dormant for many years. Spores are extremely resilient to harsh conditions and as such are considered for space travel by NASA, as well as a chassis for data storage (converting 0 and 1 of digital data into AT and CGs of DNA)
3. Farm label_RS
Farm Map: The farm is divided into different units, each dedicated to culturing and harnessing rotifers’ range of capabilities

If we look close enough, we are part of an alternative playground dominated by thriving microbial communities. My interests lie in communicating our enormous potential to engage ourselves with the microbial world, highlighting possible levels of interactions, and create tangibility from the world that are mostly invisible.

I imagined a portable, domesticated farm where common, microscopic garden animals called rotifers could be reared and harnessed with our control – in a way similar to how traditional farms for animals such as cows and pigs are operated – albeit on a different scale.

Rotifers are small, mostly freshwater animals, and are amongst the smallest members of the Metazoa: about 0.5 mm in length or less. Their bodies have a total of around a thousand cells.

1. Rotifer Internal View
Single Rotifer Internal View.
High resolution microscopy of species Adineta vaga
Rotifer Anatomy: Adapted from image by Richard Fox, Lander University

Bio-sensing Unit: Farm within a Farm?

Rotifers can be genetically modified to produce green fluorescence – a common visual marker of genetic alteration. This unit is designed to use genetically modified rotifers to detect trace levels of chemicals in the water, such as toxins, hormones, precious metals as well as other smaller microbes. The idea is to program these rotifers to glow when small levels of target particles are found in the water system. By hacking the biology of rotifers, the concept of what may constitute a ‘farm’ has been scaled down even further, whereby the body of the animal itself becomes a farm, or a factory to produce valuable phenotypes.

How to hack a Rotifer. Mikheyev lab, Okinawa, Japan

Forecasting Unit

Glowing signals produced by rotifers can be quantified to produce a series of data which can inform nanoscale changes in our environment, some of which may not be picked up by current electronic sensors. The high sensitivity of biosensors mean that the data picked up can be used to create forecasts, or ‘early warnings’, to predict further changes that may occur.

- Final Graduate Show 2012, Royal College of Art, London, UK
- Press Review NOTCOT
- Radio Interview, Resonance FM
- Science Uncovered event, Natural History Museum, London, UK
- TW Bioart Exhibition, The Incubator, Taiwan.
- Cynetart 2013, Festspielhaus, Dresden, Germany
- Forced Landing: Into the Unknown, Helsinki Design Week 2015

Special Thanks:
Dr Sasha Mikheyev, Ecology and Evolution Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan