By LinYee Yuan
When asked about what the future of farming looks like, Caleb Harper imagines a world filled with data scientist farmers, roboticist farmers, and plant chemist farmers. The director of the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg), Harper is an engineer with a background in architecture and a son of an agricultural family (his father is in the grocery business and they have family farms in Kansas and Texas). In 2015 he introduced the world to his “personal food computer,” a desktop-sized box that uses robotic systems to control and monitor the environment, energy usage, and plant growth within the growing chamber.
Beyond the variables that can be controlled including carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature, an active and passionate community of over 2,500 people spread across 62 countries have rallied around the open source platform. As a direct result of community feedback and the collaborative nature of their open source approach and focus on establishing a data common, yesterday, the team released the Personal Food Computer 3.0 (PFC_EDU), a scaled down version of the PFC in cost, size, and complexity based on feedback from the group's educator advisory board and testing in schools and libraries.