Jun Qi - Art & Illustration
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The Future of Farming

September 17, 2022
Children's Books
Digital painting of a person in a lilac shirt and khaki cargo pants wearing a beige farmer hat sitting on the ground leaning against a pile of soil/compost. She is holding a small lump of compost in her hands which is teeming with life like earthworms and insects. There chives growing behind her and banana leaves in the background overhead, as well as red bayam growing on the left, interspersed with some kailan seedlings. The roots of the plants can be seen going into the soil/compost which is teeming with biology (though not drawn to scale), and connected to a vast mycorrhizal network that runs throughout. There are earthworms, amoebae, bacteria, nematodes, protozoans, microarthropods, arthropods like springtails centipedes, milipedes, ants, cockroaches, beetles, and higher predators like a Javan myna and a house gecko, as well as some mushrooms sprouting out of the soil

An illustration for a "Future of Farming" competition organized by Tampines Town Council. Hi-tech farming methods like vertical farming and hydroponics seem to dominate the discourse around achieving food sovereignty in Singapore, and are also the most publicly promoted by the government, often to the neglect and even detriment of healthy soil and garden/farm ecosystems that should be recognized as foundational to nutritious food.

The focus on these so-called hi-tech methods, much touted for their suitability in a "land-scarce" city, also seem to gloss over the much higher energy and material costs that are typically required to build and maintain these systems, as well as the question of how nutritious food grown in artificial environments and with chemical solutions can really be.

There are a couple of regenerative practitioners around, who engage in practices like compost-making, permaculture, no/minimal-till farming, etc., not to mention that the regenerative agriculture movement has been fast gaining ground globally over the past decade, but it seems like it will be some time yet before it penetrates mainstream consciousness and public policymaking, even as the government continues to push towards a 30x30 (30% of food produced locally by 2030) goal.

The sad truth is that as long as people continue to want to eat non-seasonally and have plentiful access to food that cannot be suitably grown in the local climate, there will probably be no real way to transition to a truly sustainble and circular food system, often to the detriment of the already-exploited in the global south, from whom resources must be extracted to pander to globalized diets.

I wanted to do a piece which showcases the biological richness of soil and well-made compost, and how healthy soil is the ground upon which healthy food grows and a healthy ecosystem develops, including both wildlife and the humans who tend to the land. Various creatures making up the soil-food-web can be seen (although for obvious reasons not drawn to scale), including bacteria, fungi, nematods, protozoans, microarthropods, arthropods, earthworms, and higher predators.

Painted in Krita.

Jun Qi - Storytelling & Illustration ©2022