The 'Internet of Food' Is Coming and Could Be Open-Source

Categories: economy
Tags: urban agriculture, open source

What? A team of researchers from the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative is working on Food Computer, a technology-based approach for food production that uses robotic and sensors to control and monitor water, minerals, energy, temperature, humidity and plant growth inside a growing chamber. The team is also working on an open-source platform that will allow worldwide users (makers, hobbyists, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and small-scale cafeterias) to have access to “climate recipes” for different types of crops. While the ultimate goal is to create a global network of farmers, the initial objective is to facilitate local farming of every type of crop, whatever the geo-localization (Desert, Antarctic, North, South, etc.). Food computer will come in three sizes to standardize agricultural technology platforms for personal, small-scale and large-scale use.

So what? As a result of the latest super-efficient generation of LED grow light, food production in high-density urban living is becoming economically viable. With climate change impacting traditional industrial agriculture, growing populations in cities, land use issues, commercial and parking space availability in urban areas (as a result of e-commerce and self-driving vehicles), and access to lower cost electricity generated by renewables, urban agriculture could rapidly take off in coming years and affect the food supply chain (pesticides and fertilizers, farmers, distribution, grocery stores). To compensate for the fact that they will be expensive in the short term, Food Computers could host high value crops. Combined with synthetic biology, urban farming could become more efficient than industrial farming, ensuring a constant food supply without price fluctuation over the seasons. This could lead some cities around the world to modify their building code to add a "food production area" into new buildings to assure food security. 


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