Growing Food With Your Computer Because We Live in the Future

Growing Food With Your Computer Because We Live in the Future

From rooftop gardens to vertical farms, underground to underwater, farming has been moving out of rural settings and into exciting new environments in recent years. 3-D printers are even getting in on the action, and there’s a new game in growing food: a computer.

Called the Personal Food Computer, this tiny aeroponics system is, for all intents and purposes, a miniature self-sustaining farm that not only tracks all angles of the food’s development through technology, but delivers nutrients and creates the appropriate weather system for the plants it’s growing. It’s a scaled-down version of the CityFarm, also developed by MIT’s Caleb Harper.

The CityFarm was born out of the MIT Media Lab. It grew lettuce, herbs, and tomatoes in a room not unlike a photography dark room, under blue and red lights. Without soil, the hydroponics system uses only about 10 percent of the water of conventional farming.

MIT’s CityFarm

Similar to a 3-D food printer, the CityFarm spinoff computer box can be “dropped anywhere, and grow fresh food, regardless of surrounding conditions,” reports Fast Company. Which is a pretty significant breakthrough in food production, even if it’s not likely to replace conventional farming anytime soon.

Still, it could play a larger role in the future of food production, particularly in dense urban environments where trucking food into cities is difficult and expensive. It could also become a reliable food source in the wake of natural disasters or other emergency situations limiting access for deliveries of fresh food. “Water, power and transport are already taken care of, and if you don’t have to ship your food long-distance, it can be riper when harvested,” reports Fast Company.

“These self-contained environments are also faster than your standard, outdoor farms. The CityFarm produces crops in 25-30% of the time they’d take in a field, which translates to either better yields, or less power used to run the machines.”

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Image via MIT

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.