Farming as we know it is a thing of the past. At least according to Caleb Harper, the institution as old as civilization itself is on its last legs, and it’s a good thing. Harper, the director of MIT’s Open Agriculture Initiative, delivers this radical idea in his 2015 TED Talk This Computer will Grow your Food in the Future. In it, Caleb demonstrates a laboratory built by himself and his team made specifically to produce crops. But far from a simple garden, this aeroponic grow laboratory can control the environment of its crops to an unprecedented degree shaping the way the grow and the nutrients they produce. From his computer, Caleb boasts that he can consistently produce a head of lettuce with pH value of exactly 6, because 6.1 simply won’t do.
As impressive as that is, influencing the nutritional value of his crops is not what excites Harper. The point he wants to stress is not the data he can control, but the data that he can control and share. With this open source food computer, one can record and send specific information of the input required to grow a specific crop in a specific way and, more importantly, replicate it. Harber paints a picture of a world where digital farmers experiment and discover new and delicious foods and share their finds with the whole world. “We start sending information about food, rather than sending food. This is not just my fantasy, this is where we're already deploying. Food computers, food servers, soon-to-be food data centers, connecting people together to share information” (Harper).
As for us here at ADI, we couldn’t be happier to see the very technologies we make on a personal scale applied to a project with such far reaching potential. A future with such open and collaborative emphasis on food production can only be a healthier and better fed future. We’ll be following this project closely and invite you to as well at http://openag.media.mit.edu/hardware/