From the Director of the Open Agriculture Initiative at MIT’s Media Lab, the fascinating story of how digital technology is revolutionizing the way we feed the planet, offering surprising solutions to the global food crisis and redefining what it means to be a farmer.
By the middle of this century, we will have nine billion people to feed and nobody who wants to be a farmer. From climate change to pollution, from controversies over GMOs to shrinking water supplies, our current system of feeding the planet is breaking down, delivering less nutritious food to fewer people, making both food insecurity and food waste increasingly commonplace.
While the problem is clear, the solutions have been more difficult to recognize. Now, thanks to Caleb Harper and his Open Ag initiative, a revolution in agriculture is taking place. Inspired to rethink the fundamentals of farming during a visit to Japan in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Caleb returned to the MIT Media Lab and started growing lettuce in Dixie cups. While his peers were focused on self-driving cars and robots, Caleb was building an entire farm in the basement of the Media Lab. In the perfectly controlled conditions of his farm, he was able to carefully monitor all the variables that affect a plant’s growth and health—water, light, CO2, nutrients, temperature. Using machine learning to analyze the vast amount of data being collecting, he created “climate recipes” for growing the healthiest, tastiest, most sustainable produce in history, anywhere in the world. With the invention of a “personal food computer”/grow-box that he has shared with school children and scientists across the globe, Caleb Harper has laid the foundation for an entirely new model of food production with limitless possibilities.
Fascinating, revelatory, and filled with groundbreaking research and ideas, this book shows how the power of one man’s determination and vision are revolutionizing how we will plant, grow, and consume food now and far into the future.
Caleb Harper is a Principal Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Director of the Open Agriculture (OpenAg) Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. He leads a diverse team of engineers, plant scientists, dietitians, and educators in the exploration and development of future food systems. He has been an invited lecturer at the Nobel Foundation, The Royal Society, United Nations World Food Program, and TED, among others. Harper’s work has been featured on 60 Minutes and profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Wired, Forbes, and Popular Science.