Could the future of modern agriculture be found completely indoors?
That’s the question on the mind of Caleb Harper, the research scientist behind the CityFARM project of MIT Media Lab’s City Science Initiative.
On any given day on the fifth floor of the glass-walled Media Lab building, a team of 15 researchers led by Harper can be found operating the project's small indoor vertical farm. The CityFARM team includes mechanical engineers, biologists, architects and more, who manage pests, monitor water chemistry and grow produce such as tomatoes, leafy greens and herbs.
The goal of CityFARM, Harper explained, is to create a sustainable, scalable, open-source vertical farming system and solutions that can be shared by others in the still-nascent industry -- like buzzworthy projects just announced in Jackson, Wyoming, and Newark, New Jersey.
“What I’m trying to do is be like the Linux foundation for [agricultural] technology, to develop the cross platform that can go between these farms,” Harper told HuffPost.
Plants at most vertical farms are grown hydroponically, or without soil, nourished instead by the recycling of a nutrient-rich water solution. Some such farms rely on aeroponics, where the water solution is misted onto the plants' roots. The farms are typically several stories tall, allowing for crops to be stacked in an enclosed space. Photosynthesis is brought about by artificial light, and sometimes augmented by natural light, like in a greenhouse. MORE