Design Dialogues 2

03 - 24 - 2020

How might we improve rural people´s life through technology?

Pablo Zuloaga


1st Speculative Scenario

WHAT IF technology is the ally for smallholder farmers to study plants adaptation to climate change trough forced weather simulation and phenotyping?


1st Intervention

I volunteered in an urban orchard to learn how to work with and in nature, and the relationships and tactics proposed by people to be resilient to climate change in agriculture.


2nd Speculative Scenario

WHAT IF with forced climate simulation and natural selection we could accelerate the adaptation of plants and seeds to drastic climates?


2nd Intervention

I took a permaculture workshop to understand traditional farming techniques and natural observation, and then see how I can integrate technology with them.


3rd Speculative Scenario

WHAT IF in rural villages, we teach peasant children different technologies for agriculture and thus teach them that agriculture can be cool?


3rd Intervention

I was going to help the Itinerarium foundation in Rupit build a FarmBot they bought, to teach local farmers that farming can be great, thus preventing migration to urban areas.

What If...


Education in accessible agricultural technologies was a compulsory subject in rural towns, to promote a responsable DIY technological agriculture and thus reduce migration of young peasents to urban areas?


Farmers could acces open source homemade phenotype machines, which helps them test among themselves the adaptability of their plants to new climatic conditions, according to climate prediction models?

LOWE SSP - Pilsen


Farmers could build DIY micro climate simulation machines that can force indoor weather conditions, to grow plants that resist more or less heat, light or water?


Farmers could design and create modular machines that help them add value to their crops, turning them into other derived products that help them earn more income and reduce food waste in the world?

1st Intervention

Learning how to work with and in nature, and the relationships and tactics proposed by people to be resilient to climate change in agriculture by volunteering in and urban orchard and a digital survey.


I have been going to Connectort, an urban orchard in Poble Nou since mid-January to work in different tasks in the garden with people with different levels of knowledge, but with the same common love for plants, nature and agriculture.

There I learned a lot about plants, agriculture, different gardening techniques and above all, about the interest that many people from the city have in rural and agricultural life.

Garden work ranged from planting and transplanting plants, helping to paint, build or repair things, pruning plants, or simply watering organic matter on the ground to protect it.

Physical Survey

Aside from learning in daily conversations with people, I did a physical survey between some volunteers and staff of conecthort.

I asked them:

If they had ever grown a plant in their own countries
and what difficulties they had?

And, since most of them were foreigners,
what difficulties had they encountered in having to cultivate them in Barcelona...

Most of them agreed that the soil, water,
weather, and seasonalities were their major difficulties

because a lot of them come from the tropic.

I also asked them:

If in 20 years, Barcelona is going to have the same weather than Cape Town, Lisbon or Adelaide in Australia, how do you think you could adapt your plants to this wheater?

This generated a nice discussion about climate change between them, but there was one answer that interested me the most.


I also did a digital survey among MDEF and other international IAAC students, asking if they have ever grown plants
in their life and what had they grown?, and also asked
if they had tried to grow something in Barcelona
how was their experience?


Answered by MDEF and other IAAC international students.

The finding in this survey was that there are many people interested in growing different types of plants
and that some of them had problems
with the seasons and the weather planting in Barcelona, relative to their hometown.

2nd Intervention

Learning how to use traditional
agricultural techniques in a permaculture workshop


For my second intervention,
I attended a theoretical-practical workshop on permaculture, presented by Oriol Ferrando,
a Catalan expert in permaculture.

Permaculture is basically building with nature, taking into account how the different elements of a system collaborate with each other to produce more resources than they use.

In this workshop we learned things like the principles of permaculture, crop association, observation techniques,
soil succession, collaboration between nature
and a bit of orchard design.

One of the most valuable lessons of this intervention was seeing, so many foreigners and people from urban areas,
who took this course to be able to live in rural areas
in a more ecological and sustainable way.

Another great learning was
the traditional techniques of observing the health
of plants, the composition of the soil and its Ph,
which anyone can do from home without technology.

3rd Intervention

Learn how to build a FarmBot in Rupít, and to use it to teach local farmers how farming can be cool without having to migrate to urban areas.
(This project is posponed because of Covid-19)


The "Bulli" of rural innovation has arrived.

The "Farmlab" is a project of the Itinerarium Foundation, a center for the creation and dissemination of rural technology projects, to curb depopulation in Spain.

With d’Eurecat and Fab Lab Barcelona technological support , this center based in Pruit will develop projects with environmental sustainability as its main objective.

In a survey that they did in the article, they asked people if they consider that urgent measures are needed against depopulation in Spain, to which 93.76% of 11,842 respondents, 11,102 persons, answered yes.

"We have to show people that they can live in towns just as well as in Barcelona, ​​Madrid or New York".

Current state of the Project

Flat ground with stakes.

Construction of the bed on the spot.

While now...

They have already started to build the bed on which the Farmbot will be mounted, and on which the garden will be planted.

When everything is normalized, I hope to continue with the project, for the moment I am still investigating its operation and trying to design of the crop that we will plant.

In this case, the intervention will be first within myself as an experiment subject to see how I understand the technology, and then try teaching it to someone else in the community, trying to find the best methodology or way to translate this tech literacy into others who are more into agriculture and vice versa.

Because of the Covid I still don´t know if I´m going to be able to conclude this part, but anyway, I wanted to added here because it opened to me a new way of looking at my project, maybe more educational rather than creating a new technology. Thinking more in a way to teach things to farmers, so maybe even they are the ones who solve their own problems.

a world where...

Small farmers around the globe have useful technological knowledge that they learn in school and that they can apply to their everyday farming procedures, including digital manufacturing and electronic knowledge that enables them to build DIY machines that can force the adaptation of seeds, do plant phenotyping to feed a database, feed artificial intelligence models for their benefit or build machines to give added value to their production?

What I'm questioning now ...


make agriculture "cooler" so that small farmers and rural people continue to live there without moving to urban areas?


explain technology to the farmers in a way that they can mix it with their traditional knowledge to create new technologies?


put technology into smallholder farmer's hands so they can create DIY machines that bring more opportunities to their lives?


interconnect farmer's knowledge locally and globally so they can be more resilient to market prices, technologies and climate change?

Thanks for your interest!

This small format is for you to answer directly if you have any ideas, comments or opinions about this presentation or how to solve these questions that I am asking myself at the moment.

(You can either answer in English or Spanish)


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