To feed and save the world

Our only home.

Our only home.

To feed and save the world

There will soon be 9 billion people living on this planet, which presents those of us alive right now with a great problem to solve: how will we manage to feed all those people in a sustainable way?

This problem is especially urgent given that:

To feed and save the world we need to grow a greater diversity of organisms with less water, less land, fewer toxic chemicals, less transport distance, less suffering, less energy, less CO2, less hassle, less time, less waste, and less seasonality.

We can do this.

In fact, the technology to do this already exists.

Hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics, cellular agriculture, and other methods of controlled environment agriculture have been around for a long time. These technologies have many advantages over the current agricultural paradigm, including:

  • Significantly less land use (see vertical farming).
  • Significantly less water use. (Water is recycled).
  • No need for herbicides.
  • Significantly less or even zero pesticide use.
  • Food can be grown year round, regardless of seasonality.
  • Fresh, nutritious food can be produced closer to where it will be consumed.
  • Ideal for Data Science! Controlled environments are great for running experiments.
  • Works in space

With so many advantages, you would be right in wondering why we’ve not seen widespread adoption of these technologies. Control systems are often expensive, proprietary, difficult to setup, and not data savvy.

In an age when computation and sensors are cheaper than ever, these shouldn’t be problems. Controlled environment agriculture’s feasibility, scalability, and efficiency can be taken to the next level by leveraging networked sensors and actuators.

Smart Environments

Our name “Common Garden” comes from the transplant experiment: “where one or more organisms are moved from one environment to another environment.”

We specialize in software and hardware automation for controlled environments.

With technologies like CRISPR allowing us to tweak the genotype to an unprecedented level, the perfect complement would be powerful tools for tweaking and experimenting with phenotype.

 

phenotype.gif

Environment matters just as much as genetics in influencing a living organism’s observed properties. For example:

We’re building open source tools for sensing, encoding, and replicating environmental conditions, allowing growers of all kinds to control variables such as:

Indeed, there are technologies that already do these things, but we plan on going far beyond simple timers and PID controllers into full programmatic control. Moreover, we aim to capture lots of useful data in the process, which we can begin to use for phenotype optimization.

Today, I’m excited to announce the developer focused Alpha release of our fully open source Grow-IoT framework. Rather than build another expensive all-in-one grow system, we’ve decided to focus on building a modular, secure, and extensible software. A ‘smart greenhouse’ for example is comprised of many different parts (fans, vents, irrigation systems, heaters, pumps, lights, sensors etc.) that all need to work together to achieve a result.

Grow-IoT Alpha allows web developers to:

  • Securely connect and create control systems out of sensors and actuators
  • Create custom things with web components
  • Build a dashboard out of those components and even host your own instance!

We hope to soon launch a store with a growing inventory of supported hardware.

After all, agriculture is diverse; organisms come in many shapes and sizes.

No single method of farming will feed the world. With growing populations, a changing climate, and limited resources we need more sustainable alternatives. Common Garden’s mission is simply: “To help usher in the next Agricultural Revolution through open knowledge and open technology.”

Companies like Square Roots, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, Perfect day, and Modern Meadow are proving daily that we can feed, clothe, and shelter more people with less of an impact on the environment.

Whether it’s vertical farming or cellular agriculture, these nature inspired technologies could be made cost effective if they could rely on a strong open source community around common tools such as climate controllers, lighting systems, nutrient dosers, ph-balancers, CO2 boosters, smart power-strips, bioreactors, and more! Not to mention, embedded software that runs all these things reliably and securely.

 

Why should bioreactors be limited to expensive, ugly software?

Why should bioreactors be limited to expensive, ugly software?

We’re working to build cooperatives of software developers, hardware makers, growers, biotech companies, research institutions, and other organizations that have a common interest in seeking smart grow systems. By collaborating on building next generation agricultural tools we can reduce shared cost and spur innovation.

Imagine a future in which medicines normally found in the Amazon rainforest can be grown in Scandinavia; where milk and cheese don’t come from cows but taste the same; where restaurants grow specialty ingredients; where old buildings can be easily (and cheaply) converted into vertical farms; where data scientists simulate drought conditions in computer controlled environments to breed more drought resistant crops… etc

Help us get there:

Developers, Hardware hackers, and job seekers -> Try Grow-IoT and drop by our gitter channel.

Prospective partners and clients -> Contact us!

Other useful links -> Common Garden website || @Common_Garden || Open Source Ecology || MIT Open Agriculture Initiative

Special thanks to our partners at New Harvest, Good Food Institute, Whitebox Labs, and the UC Berkeley Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.