The MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture (“OpenAG”) Initiative is on a mission to bring out the farmer in everyone by creating healthier, more engaging, and more inventive food systems. The OpenAG Food Computer is a controlled environment agriculture system that allow users to grow food inside of specialized chamber that can be programmed, modified, manipulated, upgraded, and hacked as users experiment to find the perfect growing recipes for their favorite fresh foods. To get this project started, they are recruiting the world’s most curious, innovative, and enthusiastic scientists out there – kids. Today’s students have grown up in a world of rapidly evolving technology and they are natural born experimenters, programmers, and tinkerers.
openAG = Kids + Food + Science + Education = Young Chefs
After connecting with the OpenAG team this past summer (introduced by indigenous peoples scholars and national geographic explorers mary and jon waterhousentroduced by indigenous peoples scholars and national geographic explorers mary and jon waterhouse), the Young Chefs team was inspired by the possibility of using the Food Computer to teach the science of food growing in engaging and accessible ways. In July we had the opportunity to visit and meet with the founder, Caleb Harper, exploring how to integrate their portable growing devices into the Young Chefs curriculum, eventually giving students the opportunity to learn about the science of food as it develops from the seed to the plate.
From meeting Caleb Harper and connecting with the team, it became clear that we had a shared mission: to develop resources that are both open access and center on a shared commitment to build food and science literacy in the next generation.
Today, we are excited to announce an official collaboration with the team. This involves cooperation on curriculum development for their ongoing efforts, but more importantly, invites Young Chefs to use and experiment with the food computer to integrate its gardening powers into our hands-on cooking science lesson plans. From the summer and on, we will use it to develop lesson plans that focus on scientific concepts relevant to food growing, such as environmental science, nutrition, organismal biology, plant metabolism, physics of energy. But the most innovative aspect of the partnership is that the food computer invites students to learn basic programming languages such as Raspberry Pi, thus integrating computer science into the Young Chefs model. In other words, the food computer expands both the scientific and culinary component of our curriculum; from botany, to engineering, and programming to nutrition, the Food Computer offers many new edible experiments for students worldwide.
We are extremely excited about this collaboration and are looking forward to not only developing the materials and working closely with the OpenAG team, but also to bring food computers to our workshops with educators and students in NYC (funded by NYC Department of Education), in Native American communities, Boston, and beyond. We are eternally grateful to the OpenAG team for making this happen!!