Food and agriculture science, like every other field, is dependent on the scientific method. That means that experiments need to control variables in order to yield accurate data. If you want to determine the optimal way to grow a vegetable, you can’t just throw a seed in a garden — there are far too many uncontrolled variables. That’s where MIT’s OpenAg Personal Food Computer comes in.
The Personal Food Computer, which just reached version 3.0, is part of the Open Agriculture Initiative community’s lineup of open source “Food Computers.” These are devices that provide granular control of an agricultural environment in order to gather scientific data on plant growth. The Personal Food Computer is the smallest of that lineup, and has two larger cousins: the Food Server and the Food Data Center.
All three are designed for gathering and sharing scientific data, called “Climate Recipes,” about plant growth. And, you can build the Personal Food Computer yourself. It’s something you may want to consider if you’re interesting in growing food, and want to be part of the rapidly-growing citizen science movement. OpenAg is an open-source community of citizen scientists that takes research out of the hands of corporations, and puts it within reach of everyone.
The new Personal Food Computer 3.0 can be built for about $500, and includes a BeagleBone Black Wireless for the OpenAg Brain, and a custom Central Nervous System (CNS) circuit to connect to the sensors and environmental controls. The frame is cut by CNC, and the water reservoir is either laser-cut or vacuum-formed. There is also work being done to find manufacturers for those parts.
If you’re interested in making agricultural science open to everyone, then you should consider getting involved with OpenAg and building a Personal Food Computer.