Edible Innovations: Common Garden Develops Open Source Farming Techniques

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Edible Innovations: Common Garden Develops Open Source Farming Techniques

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

Whether it is a balcony garden or an expansive farm, managing the many components of a garden can often be quite difficult. Agriculture is one of the few industries left that stubbornly refuses to upgrade their old systems and practices to incorporate 21st century technology and information. Jake Hartnell (@JakeHartnell) did not like that, so he decided to make a solution. Hartnell’s company, Common Garden (@Common_Garden), uses advanced technology to help farmers and growers alike get the perfect crop, every time.

So, who is the man behind the machine and its intricate software? Jake Hartnell is a designer and engineer from UC Berkeley and an affiliate with Berkeley’s Swarm Lab. He believes in developing technology that can be distributed and shared in a communal way. He is also a publisher who has written a science fiction novel and worked at hypothes.is.

All of these experiences would shape Hartnell’s future work at Common Garden. The environmental concerns that inspired future events in his novel needed to be addressed and his work at Berkeley taught him the importance of open source technology.

Both the problem and solution for the agricultural industry were clear to Hartnell. The world needed to be able to grow the same yield of crops, but with less land, carbon dioxide, waste, and time. A daunting or perhaps impossible problem, but Hartnell saw the answer: pre-existing technology. An open source platform would allow farmers to feed people without jeopardizing the planet.

Common Garden is a revolution in the food industry, bringing in sensors, data, automation, and artificial intelligence. With a focus on precision, cost-effectiveness, and an open source community, Common Garden is helping farmers sense, encode, and replicate the ideal conditions to grow plants.

After communication with trade growers, Hartnell developed sensors that allowed farmers to control temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, light, nutrient concentration, and nutrient pH. These various components are not recorded separately, which is already happening in the agricultural field, but rather together, for full programmatic control.

These controlled environments do two things that are essential for creating a smaller environmental impact: remove herbicides and use fewer pesticides. Not only are you creating organic, nutritious food, it is produced in local areas and can be grown year round. Full control systems have always been around, but most of them are expensive and confusing to figure out. By creating an open source tool, Common Garden has removed the concern about cost and simplified the data analysis so that anyone can use their tool.

The software, Grow-IoT, can be customized to what the customer already owns, or wishes to grow. By using this open source information, you can program and control all the various components of farming and help produce more effective yields. This will not only make you more money, but also save on start up fees.

You are also getting a community of people who are all working through different customized gardens, allowing you to troubleshoot your own bugs and necessary fixes. It recognizes how essential each environment is to growing each crop, and makes the necessary tweaks to produce the best results.

So what is the future for Hartnell and Common Garden? The relatively new company is looking to expand, expand, expand! Hartnell wants to improve the tech so that it requires even less water, risk, hassle, land, chemicals and carbon dioxide emissions.

They hope to open a physical store soon so they can sell an inventory of supported hardware for the open source software. With a strong background in information sharing and a passion for creating a better agricultural system, Jake Hartnell and Common Garden are on the cutting edge of agricultural technology that is looking to create a cleaner, safer world.

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Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini


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