The MIT Media Lab is reimagining the food supply.
It’s called the Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg) and it is staffed by a team of researchers that has been working since 2014 to create healthier, more engaging, and more inventive future food systems.
“We believe the precursor to a healthier and more sustainable food system will be the creation of an open-source ecosystem of technologies that enable and promote transparency, networked experimentation, education, and hyper-local production. OpenAg brings together partners from industry, government, and academia in a research collective that’s creating collaborative tools and open technology platforms for the exploration of future food systems.”
MIT’s work has resulted in a long list of agtech innovations, including what the Media Lab calls the Personal Food Computer, a “tabletop-sized, controlled environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber.” It’s an automated tabletop greenhouse.
It has also developed the Open Phenome Project, an open-source digital library with data sets that cross link phenotypic response in plants (taste, nutrition, etc) to environmental variables, biologic variables, genetic variables and resources required in cultivation (inputs), in order to dial in particular genetic traits, and the Food Server, a shipping container farm that uses hydroponic and aeroponic technology to produce food at commercial scale. Its Tree Computer leverages the Food Computer platform to optimize climatic and nutritional conditions for tree growth and productive yield.
This is all futuristic, innovative work.
But it’s not limited to the lab. iSelect is working with many of the companies that are making agtech innovations like these a commercial reality.
Like Benson Hill Biosystems, which is leveraging cloud biology and plant genetics to unlock the full potential of farm crops, boosting yield, improving resiliency, and developing healthier foods.
Or Kultevat, which has developed a new, renewable source of natural rubbers using Russian dandelions. This is a profitable, sustainable, and environmentally-benign source that is simultaneously supplying the biofuels industry with a critical feedstock, reducing our near-total dependence on foreign sources of rubber.
Or Agrilyst, which is working on a web-based software platform to helps indoor farmers manage their crops and use data-driven insights to make more profitable production decisions.
MIT’s OpenAg might be working on the future of agriculture, but the future is already here in many parts of the industry.