I recently visited the Field Test Exhibition in the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin. The exhibition concentrated on innovations and issues in agriculture and was spread over two floors. The exhibits were varied, with some involving interaction and others that were displays of information. Examples include the reuse of coffee grinds to grow oyster mushrooms, recordings of insect noises and Lullaby Milk– where the cows are milked before dawn to enhance the amount of melatonin in the milk- which was being marketed as an aid to natural sleep. There were plenty members of staff on hand to answer questions about the exhibits.
Bees were featured more than once, which makes sense since the survival of bees is currently a major issue. Bees are in danger from human caused threats such as pesticide and if they die humans will be likely to follow shortly after from the disruption to our food supplies. One third of our food is pollination dependant so it’s unsurprising that several of the Field Test items focused on bees. Robobees are tiny lightweight robotic insects developed at Harvard that have a number of potential applications, including the pollination of fields. One of the other innovations was referred to as Tinder for Bees, which allows members of the public to help identify possible threats to the hive by classifying images from monitoring devices installed in hives. These will then be used to form algorithms which will in turn help identify threats to automatically.
One of the exhibits displayed information about seed banks and how certain hybrids can only be bought from suppliers as their own seeds don’t breed true.There was also a seed bank vending machine, which issued a mystery seed pack for a Euro. Each of the seeds in the vending machine came with a slip of paper explaining more about the seeds enclosed.
Outside the gallery was the Loci food lab- I was asked to choose three words to define what key features I preferred my food to have, and a specially designed bite was provided according to my choices. (Sadly, since I’m not in the habit of posting pictures of my lunch on social media, I ate it before it occurred to me to take a photo.) The taste was interesting and came with a print out of my personalised menu, along with a breakdown of how many other people had visited the lab (over 6000) and how many others had chosen the same attributes as me. By far the most popular keyword was “delicious” although, as the person assembling the bite admitted, delicious can mean very different things to different people.
Field Test is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in Dublin. If not you can read more about the exhibits here.