These Food Computers Are Open-Source Agriculture Projects

These Food Computers Are Open-Source Agriculture Projects

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The average age of an apple in a U.S. grocery store from the day it was picked until the day it gets into your mouth is 11 months. And this is usually shocking to people. And it’s because we’ve designed the system. The last big push for agriculture was more cheap food. And we’ve optimized maybe not for the best goal: the goal of transport, the goal of cheapness, but not the goal of nutrition. The goal of environmental stewardship, which is now forefront in a consumer’s mind, who says, “Where did my food come from? How good is it for me?” And those questions require so much more information. This is Caleb Harper, a research scientist
at MIT. As the son of farmers who advised him to get out of the family business and into tech instead, Caleb decided to merge the two worlds. We design things that we call food computers. And the reason I call them that is because
I want to engender that imagination, that curiosity. A food computer is essentially a box that
controls and designs a climate. If you think Star Trek or you think Willy
Wonka, that’s exactly what we’re going for. It’s a tabletop machine and technology platform that lets you program a climate for the crop you want. The build components and instructions are accessible and that’s exactly what Caleb and his team have in mind. We’re focused on open source technologies because we believe that that next revolution in agriculture has to be based on open science. That was one of the big misses from technology in the last 30 years was keeping it proprietary, keeping it closed. I have an IP strategy, which is to put everything in the public domain. The Open Agriculture Initiative released their first prototype in 2015, giving curious potential farmers a chance to experiment. They’ve tweaked the design since, and released their newest version, the PFC. Basic tinkering skills not included. The smallest one behind me is for the maker, the student, the enthusiast, the home body, the hacker, the scientist that wants to get
involved in their own house or in their own labs. The parts include circuit boards, sensors,
lights, and cameras to monitor the plant. A seed has so much embedded technology inside of it already. So when you take a certain set of genetics and you put it inside of a certain phoneme or climate, it will express something. That’s called a phenotype. We want to understand under what conditions do those genetics express flavor, nutrition, size, color. And it has a lot more to do with its environment than its genetic predisposition. So we design CO2, and temperature, and humidity, and light spectrum, and light intensity, and minerality of the water, and oxygen of the water, then trying to make sense out of what happened. The results get converted into a digital climate recipe, that can be uploaded for anyone to use. If you want to build a food computer, first
know that you are on the front lines of what we call the nerd army. Now the project is spread across 65 countries, 3,000 collaborators, and we’re starting to build a base of knowledge that will actually be viable for machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can make sense out of all the data these food computers generate, tweaking the recipes and helping create a shared language for indoor farming. The power of that is that all of a sudden, agricultural research is not docked geographically. It doesn’t have to be Ag research is only
relevant in Iowa to Iowa. All of a sudden, Iowa can become a digital climate and that digital climate can be shared across 10,000 food computers. Inside Caleb’s lab are these enormous food servers, where they’re tackling even bigger questions. We’re looking at the effects of predators,
the effects of climate change. And all of this has a big effect on the ultimate result of what that plant has to offer you in terms of flavor and nutrition. And with climate change starting to impact the world’s food supply, companies are starting to pay close attention. 70% of the world’s hazelnut trees are grown in Turkey and lately they’ve been hit hard by hail storms and freezing temperatures. Ferrero, the company behind your favorite
hazelnut spread, is working with Caleb’s team to see if they can grow hazelnut trees in new locations. We ran a matrix of different genetic varieties of hazelnut trees. And then we subjected them to South African climate, to Chilean climate, and to Australian climate. Out of these 12 varieties, we found one that not only survived but thrived in these kinds of high heat intensity situations. It’s totally novel. But let’s get one thing straight, this box
isn’t exactly going to be your own custom grocery store. I don’t believe that the future holds food
computers in every house that feeds them everything they need. But what’s really cool is we’re learning about the genetic difference between human to human. And that’s providing so much insight into
what you should eat versus what I should eat, versus what someone else should eat. Then I see a food computer in every home, because it’ll grow something very, very specific to you. And it’ll be used much more like a pharmacy rather than a constant food source. By putting the controls directly into your
hands, Caleb hopes that this is only just the beginning of a micro-farm revolution. Can you imagine anything more important than food? How we’re all going to eat in the future and that we can’t see above that to see some big common understanding? Making some of this open, interoperable across all these different disciplines will be better for the world. For more science documentaries, check out this one right here. Don’t forget to subscribe and keep coming back to Seeker for more videos.

100 thoughts on “These Food Computers Are Open-Source Agriculture Projects

  • Seeker Post author

    If you owned a food computer, what would you want to grow?

  • Venomous Vypr Post author

    i would plant weed and tobacco

  • Adam Berry Post author

    Are any of those box plans and stuff available online?

    Edit: found it

  • John Aquino Post author

    Food computer?
    You know – I was somehow expecting this thing to run an app using chicken fettuccine. 🙂

    Either that – or calculate pi ,
    using a vanilla ice cream algorithm. 😀

  • Salim Huerta Post author

    What is the cost to maintain a micro climate energy and resource wise will your company stock and sell what’s needed like mineral solutions and ship them out like amazon or ?

  • DC T Post author

    Pot Smokers Rejoice….Thy heavens have spoken….🧐😑😁👀

  • John Matthias Post author

    Quite exciting.

  • Jacob Rosset Post author

    Here I have a video showing how to speed up your computer @TxEc

  • Maestrul Gamer Post author

    Sooooooo,it is pretty much a greenhouse controled by a computer??

  • YDKY Post author

    Danm my man can speak slower now xD

  • Aaron Dangerfield Post author

    Could this be reworked for aquariums/terrariums for keeping exotic pets? I think that application would be great, as it's so difficult to control the environment.

  • Above 1 Post author

    A box !?!?! Stop getting me excited for a box ok it's called a green house.

  • Jorge Perez Post author

    😄This is old and there's way better setups stop acting like you're inventing indoor hydroponics😄😄

  • Richard Conner Post author


  • Vincent Bailey Post author

    a climate controlled container. wow thats new…

  • Mahmoud AlZaghmouri Post author

    Is this the future of growing marijuana, because I think he said it really cleverly

  • Kamel Post author

    i really thought they meant an edible computer

  • UNSILENT ZONE Post author

    L O L… I cant believe all the hype over an indoor climate controlled box.. I farm, and let me just Express how easy it is to grow stuff in your home. Humans created this thing called Air conditioning, and also air heaters. We usually like the 65-75 degree range for our houses. Funny enough, plants like 65-75 degrees too! So put a seed in some soil, stick it in a window that gets direct sunlight, and I promise you'll have something grow. Your house does everything his box does, minus sharing the Info to other people. That's the only real bonus of his machine.

  • Mark Alderman Post author

    New way to perfect pot growing

  • Warp Zone Post author

    In before Monsanto kills this somehow.

  • Derrick cushshon Post author

    "A phenome is the set of all phenotypes expressed by a cell, tissue, organ, organism, or species." according to google…
    So he was wrong… It does not mean climate.

  • Geo H Post author

    Wow just think you never need a couple of pots and some dirt again….. AMAZING!!!

  • Harm Hoeks Post author

    Google "2nd biggest food exporter"

  • cdogg Post author

    how da frack does an apple last 11 months. My parents had apple trees and when we picked them they would not last very long before going soft.

  • Zach Bozman Post author

    Another Data company selling itself as a tech company.

    They’ll get a few hundred million in investments for a grow box that’s existed for decades lol

  • Abraham Atess Post author


    I feasible solution to the global marijuana shortage!

  • scwottful Post author

    So it's hydroponics then.

  • Tom Koller Post author

    Dow and Monsanto ordered their workers to give this a thumbs-down.

  • Alex Waln Post author

    2:17 just in case anyone cares, that chip is an atlas scientific EC chip. I saw it, and I was like "hey! Iv'e seen that before!". Will this information ever be of value to you? Nope, just thought it was interesting.

  • solid Post author

    cyborg plants

  • Tim S Post author

    this is only useful since people dont own enough land to do so naturally id rather just buy land and be old fashioned instead of a 1 bedroom apt with a bunch of these

  • Raymond Post author

    for people that wants to join: 😀

  • Ali Ahmed Post author

    It's not all just down to the climate, there's the chemicals in the air and the soil which is different in every environment.

  • Mace Windu Post author

    Finally, what we don’t need

  • Nathan Ho Post author

    You might as well go outside and garden.

  • Ryan Melville Post author


  • Apillbox Post author

    Take the 'we' out of it and you would have decentralized farming next door like they do in Asia!

  • James Anderson Post author

    this was obviously just an ad for Caleb's hydroponics project. The idea that this will in ANY WAY revolutionize the way people produce and consume food is laughable. If you want to grow food, get some seeds and plant them outside in the dirt. As someone who has actually spent time working in organic agriculture.. the ONLY way to do it is to actually go outside and WORK.

  • p lr Post author

    poor plants LOL

  • Malou Post author

    People like this make the world a better place.

  • Richard Larson Post author

    It's called a "grow tent". It's how you get your weed in illegal states.

    Hope you had a great 420!

  • Chuzz Post author

    i wanna grow weed in that mf.

  • Thomas Slone Post author

    so you gave it a misleading name to get people interested? just like world market

  • ChillTyme Post author

    There is nothing of a Computer about this whole setup. It is just a nutrient+light calculator and nothing beyond that. There is nothing high tech about this except the LEDs. The fact that 12k people have liked it and watched it as some new technology shows how few people even know of some decades old practice called hydroponics.

  • ChillTyme Post author

    Can't wait for this box to sell overpriced from the cost of sourcing materials. Nothing new to see here folks, just good old snakeoil kickstarter style salesmanship.

  • Louis Miller Post author

    If I had a youtube channel, would I be a real person with a name who shows myself on camera or a disembodied voice, in front of schizophrenic edited footage? Would my voice be entertaining enough or would I need booming bass background music? How can anyone take your documentary channel seriously when the videos are constructed this way?

  • ScienceGuy Post author

    Can these food computers grow the world’s best weed?

  • Danielle McCloskey Post author

    I'd love to grow tomatoes as well as basil. Are grapes possible in a food computer? Love grapes. This is really cool. Hope to be able to have one someday. Kudos!! 😉

  • Nate Black Post author

    Nice idea!

  • McHitler Post author

    We should consider the large-scale agricultural applications of gathering crop/environmental data. Farming could be made extremely efficient through an increase in the precision of applied resources.

  • Alex Bueno Post author

    high tech mini greenhouses.

  • Mariana Lourenço Post author

    How can i work for you?? Im turning 18 and this stuff has fascinated me for years! But I have no what to degree to take 😭

  • Bob England Post author

    Decentralized farming is the future, maybe even grow your own beefburger.

  • Steven Amoah Post author


  • Old Blind Darby Post author

    While this is exceptionally interesting, the statement that the phenotype is more The result of environment than genetics is patently false. I am a published plant biologist, and i love this machine, but these have been around for decades, just in other forms and scales. i first used a growth chamber, with computer controlled everything in 2001, and i was using an old machine.what this guy has done had made this tech accessible and attainable for everyone, although be ready to spend because these still cost a bit, and the nutrients, CO2 tank, etc. are also not cheap in any way. But they are accessible in every city, or via mail order.

    Overall, anything that increases interest in plants is good in my book, but i am incredibly biased.

  • Old Blind Darby Post author

    Anyone can build one of these with the right sensors, CO2 foggers, lights, and hardware (e.g. Assorted pumps for water and nutrient solutions, fans, etc.). Use the plans from this, get yourself an old fridge, or large ice cooler, make some modifications, and you can create a version of this that can handle multiple plants at once.

  • -• • • • Post author

    This is literally just a high tech green house. It's cool, but that's what it is.

  • Ga Me Post author

    There's an overabundance of food available to people on Earth. The problem is not the existence of the food. The problem is geopolitical and societal in nature. Take the US or UK for example waste approximately 50% of all produce. That's HALF of all that food wasted, completely. If you also factor in gluttonous consumption of food, it would probably save another 20-50% of that 50% that is consumed. Some other countries do occasionally have famine or lack of food. But that is for no other reason than the food that exists isn't available to them at the time. Even with efforts to deliver said food, often local political, military, terrorist etc type actions prevent the food from reaching hungry mouths. So, while this technology is neat and has a place in our future, it isn't going to solve the problem of food availability to humans on Earth.

    That all said, this is really neat! I think in the distant future, this type of thing will be very, very common. You can grow literally any crop you want using a "food computer" as long as you have what's needed. It really isn't even a very complex concept. simulate specific type of environment inside of a contained area, then grow crops in it. Easy peasy. Of course, there's a LOT of complexities involved in design here, and there's also the aspect of availability of base resources such as fertilizers, seeds, water, nutrients etc. Ironically, it's sort of like cooking a recipe. You have ingredients. You have specific method and time of cooking. You end up with specific dish. Same concept, really.

  • Max Loh Post author

    People use outdoors because you can plant in humongous wide fields getting FREE energy from the sun, instead of being confined to small boxes which each need electricity. No mention in this video about how scalable this technology is.

  • brandonflowers Post author

    All I hear is I want your data for my AI

  • ThunderingDog - Post author

    soo … Weed that taste chocolate ?

  • Hellrider 7s Post author

    I immediately love this dude
    I don't know who he is
    but I see a hero

  • BixelBG Post author

    human: make as much potato as possible
    food ai: kills all humans
    human: why
    food ai: need more space for potato

  • John Farris Post author


  • Steven Castellanos Post author

    I see Kimball Musk ears perking up.😁
    As much as we're learning of the microbiome, I wonder how this will be applied or in how many ways.

  • JiaRui Shen Post author

    A little bit costly, honestly…

  • Robert Holmes Post author

    Sounds great, for someone who wants to go live in a hole! Also, sounds more expensive than sunlight. Plus the energy footprint isn't good for the environment.

  • Brad Bradson Post author

    nor the goal of actually feeding people, rather than just making $$$

  • Allen Barclay Allen Post author

    An are you going to prepair the plant root microbe, be sterilizing the potting soil, and exposing previous plan roots to methane creating a slurey to use with that sterilized potting soil with microbe muliipcation that methane causes..! Microbe cell devision that only happens after exposure to methane, and the following injestation of nitrogen out of thin air that cell devided microbes do when exposed to methane..!
    Because if your not going to do that your collected data is worthless to a deep space or Mars mission.., !

  • Sam Post author

    seriously apple last 11 months after being seperated from the tree?

  • Peaches Omaha Post author

    I was thinking like something that 3d prints with organic material… Dude they've used computers to control growing indoors for years… Why do you need to waste this much plastic for one plant, don't just be impressed because someone says "open source", "articifial intelligence", buying local veggies, consistently, tackles all these issues

  • Pronojit Dutta Post author

    watching this on a linux PC. Come to this side and you'll never look back.

  • roby3san Post author

    any chance you could share the name of the background song starting at 0:42 ? it lasts for bout a minute. much appreciated! 🙂 great video, as always!

  • Holographic Multiverse Post author

    Synthetic food will alter your Code to an AI Pattern. Yep. He just said Matrix

  • Holographic Multiverse Post author

    Humans don’t need food

  • Keith Smith Post author

    Let me know when a STTNG era replicator becomes available

  • Jaymes elliot Post author

    cool, now do one that can grow fungus.
    If you can get it to fruit shiitake, I would be impressed

  • David de Hilster Post author

    Blue zones and whole plant based diets. We already have the answer about diet.

  • Michael D Post author

    Weeeed grower ^

  • Linus Uhl Post author

    Can you by it?

  • Mr. World Post author

    One word: cannabis.

  • Rishav Post author

    yo who edited the video?

  • Chad Christman Post author

    Back to you future where it come down from the ceiling upove or table.

  • Rice Crispy Man Post author

    Flint Lockwood Wants To Know Your Location

  • Weromano Post author

    5:20 „…and thats providing so much insight, into what you shitty versus i should eat…“

  • Neil Deep Post author

    Imma grow weed in this lolol

  • smb12321 Post author

    More cutesy than practical. It appears much more a toy than a tool. You certainly can't grow substantials amounts and the choice is very limited (herbs, lettuce, etc) Virtually all the reviews focus on the "nerd" aspect – very little on product although a user forum was packed with problems (inconsistencies, mold, too wet, too dry, too acidic, etc) A spokesperson is honest about the device – it is not meant to save energy or lower costs but is instead "a new way of looking at food". So right off the bat, all the "green arguments" go out the window. Where I can see this useful is in space.

    Personally, I think this will be quickly surpassed by 3d printers who will eventually be able to give us any food we desire.

  • Kargadan Post author

    We definetly need more people like this dude on earth and less Monsanto people

  • Widget Post author

    It makes me glad to see people making the future happen now. Every time I see another problem leading us closer to disaster in Climate Change (and I do marine science, happens a lot) it's like someone is already on it in their own way with something smart, modern, simple and elegant. I don't see anything wrong with this concept with the exception of extra strain on energy and the resources needed to make all the sensors that would be needed to put one of these in every home.

    Also, isn't this just extrapolating what weed growers have been up to for decades and saying 'what if it wasn't weed'?

  • CUBETechie Post author

    How much can you grow in 1m2

  • Fergy Farrelly Post author

    Huge potential here!

  • The Sounding of the Horn Post author

    And a people without understanding shall come to ruin. ~Hosea 4:14

    This is not the way. People, repent of your sins and take the punishment for them. Receive the bad and you will make the good but if you continue to refuse to change and listen then this earth will vomit you out.

  • Collin LaPlant Post author

    Hey guy, don't forget air pressure/altitude. Yw!! This is awesome!! Let me know when u throw some weed in one of these boxes!

  • NICK CHIKAGO Post author

    couldn't we 3-D print food

  • Colorful Codes Post author

    We need more people in science and technology 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

  • albonyo Post author

    He just said something very true. What's good for a. Asian may not apply for an African

  • Art Becher Post author

    Amazing … also amazing is the correlation between plants phenotype and humans personalities which seem to derived in the same way , through our environment , which makes me wonder how much temperature , light , pressure , water etc effect our growth and our flavor lol … interesting

  • chumley warner Post author

    All that you see here is American made its a little bit cheesy but nicely displayed !!

  • Shut The Muck Up Post author

    If this is what MIT considers revolutionary, then MIT is a joke. This is hydroponics. Been around for a long time. Anyone with a tent and some lights can do the exact same thing for way less money.

  • Wijdan Post author

    Confirmed fake :

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