Revolutionizing the Way We Grow Food

My talk is about how to solve the global food crisisTechnology and seed is for an adverse world. What if you had perfect world? Researching this for metook me to a place of learning about Mir Space Station. You know, the most space constrained environment the least amount of resources.  You know it costs them a lot of moneyto ship water into space.

So, they created something on Mir called Aeroponics. That was inspirational to mewhere they create a fog in a box. And that fog is between five and fifty microns dense and all of those microns of water contain also all the nutrients and the oxygen the plants need. The thing that inspired me is they reported that they use 98 percent less water. And that they grew anywhere like a theoretical possibility of twenty times faster plant production.

So, one square foot of soilthree heads of broccoli in a year. That’s if you have the water, if you don’t have pestsif you have the fertilizerif you. . .  if, right? The farmer “if”.  Where as in Aeroponics we’re producing 18.  What if, I just took one square foot of the tallest building in Boston just one on the whole facade I get between three  in the ground or 3,000 in that facade.

So, we started by hacking things from Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond you know, atomizers, nebulizers learning about the technology of creating mist making plants dance killing a lot of plants, unfortunately. You know, we were technologists, a group of technologists falling backwards into a very old world.  So, then we went to the first 60 square feet.  Inside of this  60 square feet we’re experimenting with all kinds of things But I think most importantly we fed about 300 people in the Media Lab, once a month and we made a lot of local food donations.

But even better than that the bright green colors the bright white roots, the crispness the quality of all of this food. You know, is this a new grocery store of the future? Is this is a new restaurant? Is this just a pick your own lettuce patch for dorks? This was the first time that many people in the Media Lab had ever ripped the roots off of anything.

You know, it’s just a reality. We get our salad in bags, and that’s there’s nothing wrong with that, we live in the city but you know, this created a spark of inspiration that said “Well, maybe, you know, maybe image based processing and machine learning has something to do with food. “You can log into this farm.

Digital Recipe

So, you log in, you monitor the system.  You get a history. That history becomes a digital recipe. These are all the broccolis in my lab by IP address.  Right.  We have IP addressable broccolis. We create all this cool stuff, now we got to email it. Why are we shipping things? Why are we shipping with planes, trains and automobiles? Why can’t we email food like we email information? So, Willy Wonka style why can’t we particalize it and then send it over to the other side to be reconstituted somewhere else? If this seems crazy, we’re already doing it.

These are labs that I am sending all over the world in different places.  So, this really becomes  just a platform. So, here’s the tools. First personal computer for food we call it GRO-bot. GRO-bot is a hacker platform for kids. we’re trying to get this done super-cheapand send it all over the world This is what I am doing.  I am connecting school children that experiment and want to know why does a plant grow tall why is it short, why does it taste funny. Why does algae grow in the water?But then we are recording that. And they can email that to their friend but even more importantly, say they express a novel proteinand that novel protein is incredibly important to humanity we never knew it existed because those climates thatthe kids created playing, don’t exist on Earth. So, if you can distribute all of this across the world you can make breakthroughs so much faster.