California is suffering from its largest drought in recent history. It also happens to be the most populous state and a major agricultural producer in the United States. This is going to have increasingly detrimental impacts to our traditional farming and food production industries.
My proposed solution is to assemble and sell a turnkey version of MIT’s OpenAG Food Computer. This product is a blend of software and hardware that allows everyday people to farm their own crops indoors (Source #1 below). Benefits include vertical space for growing, a controlled climate, lower water consumption, computer controlled monitoring, sensor analytics, and more. Most importantly, it gives people access to food regardless of extreme weather or prices.
This product is unique because it relies on a very talented open source engineering community with the backing of MIT. The software goes far beyond normal plant monitoring by using sensors that provide data-rich information about carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, root-zone temperature, and more. The open source community pools and analyzes this data to create growing environments that are specific to each plant and application. Users can even input constraints such as water, energy, and soil limits to make adjustments ensuring their crops stay alive.
The OpenAG Food Computers are easily manufactured because their exact building specifications have been documented (Source #2 below) and are open source. If there happens to be manufacturing hurdles, there is a large open source community who is familiar with the hardware setup and can recommend technical solutions. Although initial manufacturing costs may be high, they should drop in price due to falling prices of electronics and sensors as well as economies of scale.
Food Computers can be heavily marketed through social media and sold via Amazon. Marketing campaigns can include videos that compare the Food Computer to traditional farming highlighting water, pesticide, & hard labor differences. Target markets include large, drought-stricken metro areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, Reno, & Las Vegas (Source #3 below). This includes over 30 million people who will need to find an alternative to sky high prices for produce and meat. Financing and leasing arrangements can be offered to ensure monthly payments are less than the cost of their grocery bill each month. An online calculator can be used to highlight the potential savings.
The human species is a funny group. We tend to ignore life-changing information until it directly affects us. Unfortunately, by the time we see the downstream effects of drought as it relates to food production, it will be too late for everyday people to learn how to farm. They will need a solution and they will need it quick. They will need Food Computers.
Source #1: http://openag.media.mit.edu/hardware/
Source #2: https://github.com/OpenAgInitiative/gro-hardware/blob/master/MainFrameAssemblyGuide.pdf
Source #3: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/MapsAndData/MapArchive.aspx