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The DiverIMPACTS pixel cropping trial featured in Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition, Countryside, The Future

Countryside, The Future, a new exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, persuades viewers to observe rural landscapes in a different light. One part of the exhibit showcases alternative narratives to industrial agriculture, including the ‘extreme’ form of strip cultivation known as ‘pixel cropping’ or ‘pixel farming’, which is part of the Dutch DiverIMPACTS field trial.

Lenora Ditzler, a researcher from Wageningen University (WUR), co-coordinated WUR’s contribution to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s recent exhibition in New York, Countryside, The Future. This ambitious cross-disciplinary look at rural transformation explores topics ranging from climate change, migration, evolution, anthropology, politics, the role of technology and the future of our food. 

Led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and the director of AMO (the think tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture), Samir Bantal, the exhibit addresses “questions about the development and role of the countryside over time” (Guggenheim press release). Turning the focus from urban to rural, “a central thesis of the exhibition is that our current form of urban life has necessitated the organization, abstraction, and automation of the countryside at an unprecedented scale” (Guggenheim press-release). Pixel cropping, which is being developed as part of the Dutch DiverIMPACTS field experiment, is presented as a thought-provoking case of applying this thesis to the study of agriculture. 

Pixel cropping is an arable crop management practice in which plants are sown in small patches (‘pixels’) in diverse and complex arrangements that facilitate beneficial ecological interactions between species. The pixel cropping section of the exhibit includes large image panels showing a pixel cropping planting plan, a photo of WUR’s field trial, a video piece discussing the pixel cropping research and how it links to other research, and an essay by Lenora  Ditzler in the exhibition catalogue Countryside, A Report

Presented in juxtaposition to practices like greenhouse horticulture and precision farming, the pixel cropping story offers an alternative take on what the future of agriculture could entail. Viewers are asked to question “what they want the future of agriculture to look like, and how (or if) they imagine technology to be part of that future,” Ditzler said in an A-D-O journal article