A Dutch designer powers his server with the energy generated by his tomato plants

The design replaces the batteries of server systems with living plants to demonstrate how technology could form a symbiotic relationship with nature.

Ilja Schamle, a design graduate from the Design Academy in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, created a project to show how renewable energy derived from tomato plants could be used to power a cloud server.

The project aims to explore how technology could form a symbiotic relationship with nature. At a time, computer-generated heat provides optimal growing temperatures for tomatoes. The design was exhibited at the Missed Your Call graduate exhibition at Milan Design Week.

According to Schamle, the system, which is called Warm Earth, is designed for a hypothetical apocalyptic (or utopian, depending on how you see it) future in which people have to resort to living plants as an alternative energy source.

With the way we use servers now and with the amount of content available, it wouldn’t be possible to run the entire internet on one facility. We couldn’t operate that way and that’s a very harsh reality. This can help us understand how much energy is needed to run these systems and how far away we are from them.

Ilja Schamle.

Schamle envisions tomato plants living inside traditional server cabinets. The tomatoes and servers would be connected by the ventilation duct, with a fan helping to funnel hot air away from the computer, turning it into a greenhouse for the tomatoes. It also aims to highlight the concept of recovering data centers from being external entities and bringing them back to our homes.

At the same time, the tomatoes would provide power to the computer via the plant microbial fuel cell technology that turns vegetables into batteries. The technology was developed by researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and uses the excess sugars and proteins left over after photosynthesis.

These excesses leave the roots as waste and are broken down by soil bacteria. Once broken down, the energy is released in the form of electrons which can be used as electricity. These electrons are captured by a grid placed at the bottom of the pot, which acts as a conductor.

The server currently has enough power to host a single website. Poetically, the server puts forward questions about the impact of our network infrastructure on the natural environment.

Going through iljaschamle.website

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