Deep in the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab a project is underway called Open Agriculture, helmed by research scientist Caleb Harper. Harper has developed a food computer, inspired by a visit to Fukushima in Japan in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and a subsequent desire to make mass climate–controlled food growing a reality.
Temperature, humidity, CO2 and various other variables are controlled by “robotic systems” in a specialised chamber, which come in two sizes currently: desktop and the size of a shipping container. These conditions can be set using special ‘climate recipes’ in order to grow different plants with different characteristics. What’s more, the technology is open source: users can download instructions on how to construct their own food computer and share climate recipes.
Above: Desktop food computer (Open Agriculture/Facebook)
Harper told ABC News: “I’m just a toolmaker for the next generation of farmers ... You might have one at your house, at your school. You might have it underground. In places that are too hot, you could have subterranean food data centers in the future.”
The project is already trying to engage that next generation by distributing desktop food computers to Boston schools.
Watch Harper explain more about this fascinating project in the TED talk below.