Container aquaculture—a method that uses shipping boxes equipped with information technologies—is presented in China as an emblem of smart farming, and as a technological solution to the environmental degradation in natural water resources resulting from intensified aquacultural production. Container aquaculture aims at creating an orderly, self-contained ecosystem wherein the fish are managed in tandem with the water milieu via data governance. Its infrastructure operatively automates aquacultural practices into optimizable modules and programs biological and mechanical processes into interlocked components bearing distinctive functionalities within the artificial ecosystem. This article argues that the case of container aquaculture shows that algorithmically regulated and automated ecosystematic management does not always fulfill its promise; one still needs to navigate a dense web of interspecies associations filled with gaps and crossings between modes of being and values. Datafication is just one way to know and organize. An algorithmically controlled ecosystem cannot always accommodate the open-endedness of more-than-human ecologies. Drawing on works by Tsing, Stengers, and Satsuka, this article reappropriates what should be counted as the “smart” in farming by resituating it as a world-making practice in ecological collectives rather than in an abstract ecosystem, eschewing the fantasy of a singular criterion of evaluation and control.

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