Besides population growth and climate change, urban growth is one of the largest challenges in the 21st century. Spatial and infrastructural borders between urban centers and rural areas disappear. Agricultural production needs to feed an ever-growing population. At the same time, current innovations in animal breeding and plant cultivation, as well as measures for increasing productivity are not able to compensate for the ever increasing scarcity of cultivation areas.
Our vision of agricultural systems of the future is based on the idea that food will be produced in connected, mutually communicating and standardized production units, the so-called CUBES. Those CUBES are the basis for a closed food production system, which overcomes the weaknesses of earlier agricultural production systems by using ISO-standards, stackable units and a bio-cybernetic regulation approach. At the same time, the system integrates easily into the urban future. Due to its mobile nature, adaptability to a changing environment and an inherent scalability, the CUBES can be implemented in urban, rural and even desertified sites. Principles of closed cultivation methods will be integrated into a new process chain and the individual elements of the chain are intelligently connected and regulated. Thereby, synergies like the „Triple Zero®" concept can be used, enabling a production without additives and avoiding emissions and waste.
The Institute of Machine Tools and Production Technology of the TU Braunschweig deals on a conceptual level with the holistic planning of the CUBES Circle System, with the ecological effects, costs, as well as with visualization and interaction forms.
For holistic planning, material and immaterial flows (media, energies and data) between individual CUBES as well as between the CUBES networks and the environment are considered (e.g. by means of simulation). This includes questions of the interpretation of individual CUBES networks as well as the spatial and functional interaction/integration with urban surroundings. The exchange relationship with the environment (location of the CUBES), which is decisive for the acceptance and the positive effect of the symbiotic production system, is focused.
In the field of Life Cycle Engineering, the TU Braunschweig is working on the development of a life cycle-spanning method for the assessment of ecological effects and costs of symbiotic production systems. The methodology pursues two different goals. On the one hand, a live LCA/LCC concept is developed to implement the developed methodology. This concept supports the operators with live information on costs and environmental impacts and provides useful information for public presentations. On the other hand, the methodology provides a scientific basis for the preparation of scenario-based prospective environmental assessments of the system, taking into account differences in future technical contexts.
Furthermore, the TU Braunschweig deals with the visualization and interaction of the CUBES concept with the help of different forms of Mixed Reality (MR). On the one hand, MR applications are to be used for external communication and for planning the system. On the other hand, innovative human-CUBES interaction concepts for the productive operation of CUBES will be researched and developed. The focus is on the augmentation of data (media flows, balances, etc.), correlations (e.g. results of ecological (live) evaluation, etc.) and instructions (augmentation of work processes) by means of "head mounted displays", which intuitively represent complex correlations and thus enable manipulation of the system by humans.