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Inside an MIT Researcher's Grand Plan to Create the Personal Food Computer


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Plants growing in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

Caleb Harper, founder of the CityFarm research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, has developed a prototype personal food computer that serves as a climate-controlled box for growing plants.

Credit: Caleb Harper.

Caleb Harper is the founder of the CityFarm research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, which seeks to expand the emerging field of vertical farming.

Harper has developed a prototype personal food computer, which functions as a climate-controlled box for growing plants. The device is small enough to sit on a coffee table, and includes an array of sensors to monitor such conditions as carbon dioxide levels, humidity, light intensity, and pH balance. No soil is used, and the plants obtain their nutrients through a mist containing essential minerals. By using digital technologies to identify and recreate the optimal conditions for a plant, Harper's platform for making climate recipes has the potential to provide optimized foods globally, irrespective of the season.

Harper is motivated by the success of open source technologies such as Linux and Mozilla, which encourage the sharing of ideas openly among all members of a community. He envisions climate recipes would be available free online, where anyone can benefit from knowing the perfect conditions for growing a particular plant.

Harper wants entrepreneurs to build on and improve his system, which he hopes will cost about $300 to $500.

From The Washington Post
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