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The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation Project at Hauser & Wirth Somerset (2017)

[Azolla Cultivations at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo: Hauser & Wirth Somerset]

[Azolla Cultivations at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo: Hauser & Wirth Somerset]

During the winter and spring 2017 The Azolla Cooking and Cultivation project participated in the comprehensive survey exhibition ‘The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind‘ curated by Adam Sutherland at Hauser & Wirth Somerset in Somerset.

For the exhibition artist and researcher Erik Sjödin developed an indoor Azolla cultivation system in which Azolla was grown under artificial lights and in liquid nutrient solution. The lights used for the cultivation was a combination of flourescent lights (which provide a broad spectra and pleasant viewing experience) and far red LEDs (which appear to significantly improve the growth of Azolla). The liquid nutrient solution and armatures for the fluorescent lights were bought from and manufactured by a horticulture company based in Somerset. Once the Azolla was properly established in the trays it grew very well throughout the whole exhibition period.

[Azolla Cultivations at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo: Hauser & Wirth Somerset]

[Azolla Cultivations at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo: Hauser & Wirth Somerset]

Next to the Azolla cultivations were an aquaponic system with fish and lettuce, a context Azolla could also be grown and integrated in. The Azolla cultivations where framed by sculptures of poisonous fly agaric mushrooms, perhaps a hint to the risk that Azolla may contain the neurotoxin BMAA.

[Azolla Cultivations at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo: Hauser & Wirth Somerset]

[Azolla Cultivations at Hauser & Wirth Somerset. Photo: Hauser & Wirth Somerset]

Azolla is native to warm temperate and tropical regions. It was introduced in botanical gardens in the UK in the late 19th century. During the 20th century it became increasingly popular as an ornamental pond plant and also began to appear in the wild. In Somerset Azolla regularly appears in waterways such as ponds and canals, in the summers sometimes growing to the extent that it becomes a weed that has to be removed. Because of Azolla’s fast growth rate and invasiveness it can cause serious disruption of water ecosystems. Since 2013 it is therefore banned from being sold in the UK. Great care was taken to dispose of the Azolla without any risk that it could spread to local waters.

Thanks to Hauser & Wirth Somerset and Adam Sutherland.