US (MA): MIT halts work on controversial Open Agriculture Initiative food project

MIT has closed down much of its Open Agriculture Initiative following allegations of academic dishonesty and improper dumping of wastewater, according to an article published in the NY Times. Late last week, MIT’s vice president of research, Maria Zuber, closed down all offsite work on the project, though she has allowed researchers to continue doing some design and document work.

The project, often simply referred to as “OpenAg,” is known for its food computers — small, high-tech containers meant to grow plants in controlled environments and without any soil. OpenAg also operated larger farms it called “food servers” in shipping containers housed outside the MIT campus in Middleton, Massachusetts.

Project leader Caleb Harper also had a vision that owners of these food computers would be able to share data on the perfect combinations of light, water, nutrient, and temperature levels with one another, creating a kind of open-source framework for high-tech indoor farming. “As an open source project, we believe the more Food Computers we all build, the more data we all have to play with, and the more we can radically alter the future of food,” states a page on the Open Ag site. 

Read the full article at The Spoon (Jennifer Marston)

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