For Shapes of Knowledge, artist Lucas Ihlein presents a new project that builds on his long term research into agriculture. Ihlein’s project focuses on the Yeomans Carbon Still, a recent invention designed by Allan Yeomans to measure the carbon content of soils. The still is intended to be used by farmers as a means of quantifying the carbon sequestration performed through their agriculture practices. In a future carbon economy, farmers could be paid for drawing down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through regenerative farming.
According to Allan Yeomans, up until now soil carbon testing procedures have been complex and prohibitively expensive, meaning payments to farmers are cancelled out by the cost of carbon measuring itself. The Yeomans Carbon Still has slowly evolved into a very accurate device for measuring changes in soil carbon levels. It can now test individual samples weighing up to 2,000 grams with a 1 gram accuracy. In the Carbon Still an air flow, at a preselected temperature, passes directly through the sample material. Intermittent contact between soil and air seems thus assured. A complete test takes about 3 hours.
In a future carbon economy, farmers must be paid for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere into their soils through regenerative agriculture - however there is much work to be done to create the technical, economic and governance systems to enable such financial incentives to be implemented.
During the exhibition a working model of the Yeomans Carbon Still will be installed in MUMA galleries and used to test the carbon content of soils of various farms throughout regional Victoria. Excursions to collect the soil samples may involve Monash University students, scholars and members of the wider community and will double as opportunities for learning about regenerative farming processes more broadly. Alongside these material investigations, public discussions will take place in the gallery involving engineers, climate scientists and carbon farming advocates about the potential viability (economic, legal, botanical) of an agricultural approach to carbon sequestration.