Categories: technology, economy, environment
What? A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab is in the early stages of experimenting with the global digitization of agriculture. The Open Agriculture (OpenAg) Initiative aims to develop an accessible global platform that growers can use to download and replicate "climate formulas" to enable the local production of food not normally grown in an area. The initiative includes the development of a "Personal Food Computer", a technology platform that uses soil-less agricultural technologies (e.g., aeroponics, hydroponics) and robotic systems to monitor and control climatic conditions--including air temperature, carbon dioxide and humidity--inside a plant-growing chamber.
So what? The open-source structure of this initiative may spur a more transparent, collaborative, and innovative agricultural sector to counter-balance some of the environmental and socio-economic effects of current proprietary and information-restrictive practices in food production (for example, patented seed stock). While countries that rely heavily on exporting agricultural produce may be negatively affected, this initiative may help address other food-related issues such as climate change, high transportation costs, farmland-loss due to urbanization, and a decreasing number of food producers worldwide. While the use of greenhouses and non-conventional food production methods may cost more than conventionally grown food, shifts in energy pricing and usage may make these new types of initiatives more competitive.