– urban agriculture, soil testing, workshop, MIT Media Lab, IDEO
with Steven Keating, Gian Pangaro, Ebony Roberts, Baratunde Thurston
CitySoil: Detroit, is a three-part plan to engage, educate, and share information about how to test soil and improve soil performance. We focused on ways to educate residents about what questions to ask about their soil; how to test the soil and what to look for in the results; and how to share this information with neighbors and other residents through tools like interactive maps and data visualizations.
We also went onsite and monitored soil conditions on various plots of land in the downtown Detroit area, where people are either growing or plan to grow food on vacated lots of land. Using a special tool called an XREF handheld monitor, we were able to quickly discern the elemental composition of the soil. We used this as an initial analysis tool.
We worked with key community and urban agriculture groups in Detroit, such as D Town Farms, to discover what current issues are involved in understanding and promoting soil safety in the community. We discovered through this process that there are many tools in place and at the disposal of citizens in the community, but access and knowledge of these tools is not widely understood.
It was at this point that our focus pivoted from intervention to awareness, in order to target the root of the problem - widespread learning about the importance of soil safety and how to test and make these results more publicly accessible.