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The Food Computer

Speed read
  • Industrial agricultural practices are inefficient and unhealthy.
  • MIT's Open Agricultural Initiative proposes an open source, personalized alternative. 
  • The Farm Computer preserves knowledge, and can feed the world.

In between NASA and a greenhouse . . . lies the Food Computer.

The Food Computer is the brainchild of Caleb Harper, director of the MIT Open Agricultural Initiative.  Harper, a 2015 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, has a background of building hospital data centers, so he knows a thing or two about controlled environments.

Future farmers. The farm of tomorrow may be in your house. The Open Agricultural Initiative connects you with farm knowledge from around the world. Log on and plant a seed. Courtesy Open Ag Initiative.

The food computer is a controlled-environment par excellence. It’s a way to empower food knowledge, inspire the next generation to farm, and reduce dependency on a fickle, changing climate. It’s a way to escape from the degradation and inefficiencies imposed by industrial farming methods.

How does it work?

Using the Open Agricultural Initiative's open source design specifications, anyone can build their own food computer.

Within a growing chamber — scalable to virtually any desired size — plants are fed though a NASA-developed irrigation technique called aeroponics. Moisture is supplied to dangling roots via a misted, nutrient-rich spray. LED lighting provides a plentiful, low-cost, low-heat source of energy.

Each plant has a set of needs that enable it to grow optimally. Sensors installed in the Food Computer monitor and can adjust all variables needed to reproduce this recipe and bring plants to harvest. This recipe can be downloaded and distributed digitally, preserving the agricultural knowledge slipping away from us at an alarming clip.

Instead of distributing food from two percent of the world's population to the rest of us, we distribute information instead.

Digital farmers — everyday nerds like you and me — can log in to our farm computer via smartphone or tablet from anywhere in the world. Select the desired recipe to grow the nutrition and flavor needed, plant the seedling, and you’re off to the races.

Adjust the variables — learn, fail, succeed, learn — then upload the data from your finished plant and share with other farmers. 

<strong>Digital farmer.</strong> Caleb Harper wants to network one billion farmers. Are you in? Courtesy Lynn Johnson; National Geographic.

So instead of distributing food from two percent of the world’s population to the rest of us — an inefficient and costly process — we distribute information instead. Plant knowledge is shared and stored, the next generation connects with nature, learns about science, and gets healthy, delicious food in the process.

Tomorrow’s farm is on your desktop. The knowledge of how to farm is shared through the internet.

Ready to get your hands dirty?

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