MIT’s Food Computer Is Changing The Future Of How We Eat

When was the last time you ate something you grew? For many of us, the answer might well be “never.” Farming, increasingly, is something that happens in distant states or even distant lands, with the results flown or trucked in for us to pick over. But how we eat is straining the environment, and as our demand to live in cities pushes their boundaries ever outward, cropland disappears, raising the distinct possibility of a food crisis.


OpenAg is, as the team likes to describe it, a “Food Computer” — a sealed box not unlike a greenhouse, wired with water and nutrient distribution systems and sensors. Researchers download a specific “climate” for the computer to maintain for the crop they’d like to grow, and the computer automates the process, ensuring the plants get exactly the amount of water, food, and sunlight they’d receive in their home climates. It’s completely open source and publicly available. If you want to grow oranges in Alaska, it’s a matter of finding the right “recipe” in OpenAg’s database.

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