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Foreign Soil

Jonathan Bennie, ESI Associate Research Fellow, collaborated with artist and writer Gabrielle Hoad to identify and exploit microclimates where edible dessert bananas might be grown outdoors in the South West. By suggesting the imposition of this tropical alien into the traditional British countryside, the project opened up space for conversations about what it means to eat local food and the future of UK food supplies.
The project ran from January 2014 to January 2015 and culminated in an exhibition in the ESI; it modelled and mapped biologically-relevant microclimates in order to support a more informed investigation of the feasibility of banana cultivation – now or in a future climate scenario.
Jonathan hopes that the project will provide insights that he can incorporate into his mainstream research work, including new ways of understanding, visualising and communicating the complex spatial and temporal patterns of microclimate within landscapes. Gabrielle is interested in how the attempt to grow bananas offers a light-hearted route to engaging with future scenarios - such as ecological disruption and food shortages - and hopes that the collaboration will shift the experiment into the category of the 'possible' and give it more traction with public audiences.