Or.... How to Make Music from Microbes

photo: Dr. Hemma Philamore

Robotany is an interdisciplinary art/science project about hydroponics and robotics.

I’m currently collaborating with artist Dr. Katy Connor and Roboticists Dr. Hemma Philamore and Dr. Elliot Scott  of University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Lab.

The project runs from October 2021 to March 2022

Funded by Brigstow Institute.

(all text in bold type are links)

Dr. Hemma Philamore’s autonomous microbe eating robot based on the form of a waterboatman insect.

One of Dr. Katy Connor’s hydroponic systems with a tomato plant. This is after approximately 5 months of growth.

The aim of the project is to see how robotics can be used to help people grow Hydroponic food. Hydroponics is where the plants are grown in water and not soil. It is a growing area of research as a way of producing food sustainably in face of climate crisis.

The robots themselves will be powered on ‘Microbial Fuel Cells’. These are like little ‘batteries’ that create energy from microbes in the water. As the microbes digest, they release electrons which can be harvested to produce electricity. HOW AMAZING IS THAT! It is a very tiny amount and much research has been done into how to increase this.

The robots will using sensors to monitor the system and the information returned should help people find growing hydroponics easier at home.

My job, is to make an audio or audio/visual interface to communicate the state of the system – are those bugs and plants happy bunnies or not.

I will be making Microbial Fuel Cells to generate enough power to make some music. It’s an awesome project, I’m so excited to start it. A genuine privilege to work with scientists at the cutting edge of this research.

The project runs from October 2021 to March 2022 and I will be updating this page as it goes along.

Collecting my first batch of mud and water for MFC’s (microbial fuel cells) from a beautiful site in Leigh Woods, just outside Bristol, where I live.