Calling all Educators! Who's using Food Computers in schools?


With our first graders, we worked with a robot called Bee-Bot that teaches very simple computer programming for kids as young as 4. It didn’t feel like technology for technology’s sake because the kids were already learning about bees and pollination; we just added sequential thinking and measuring skills to the mix.


I am working with an organization around funding the computers so that some of our high schools can build them. The site has gotten very dense with information and a variety of topics. Is there some basic space I can go to, to get all of the basic information (like building the chassis)? We are in Washington State and would to get this program started soon! I love what Juliana did and would love to connect to gain from her experience!


I found it through another question poster, but would still love to connect with Juliana!!


Hello all,

I am a coach of a First Lego League Team of 8th graders at our school called team Sophisticated AI.

For our Design Project for FLL they have been learning about Open Ag, hydroponics and PFCs. The team applied for a grant from our school earlier in the fall and have been working on building a Foam Farm based on the plans they found online. It has been a learning process but we just successfully tested all of the components yesterday and are looking forward to growing something after the break.

Any good recommendations for a first recipe to try?

They are excited by the Open Ag movement and would like to share one way that they were thinking that Open Ag might be able to attract a broader audience, especially younger people. Here is what they are proposing(in their own words):

Our Proposed Solution

Part One: Improving the instructions for the Foam Farm

We think that in order for a smart hydroponics system such as the Foam Farm to be accessible to younger kids, several improvements would have to be made. The current instruction manual provided by OpenAg is clear, but not exactly kid-friendly or accessible. Providing diagrams of how the system works, more supporting photos in the assembly process, troubleshooting tips and more readable code is an easy way to make help make the Foam Farm less daunting for younger kids and less experienced adults alike.

Part Two: An interactive PFC simulator app

We suspect that even with an easier to assemble plan for a Foam Farm, taking the leap and purchasing materials presents an obstacle. So we also propose an app that will use real data from Open Ag to teach kids our age about the operations of a Personal Food Computer through simulation and gameplay.

Some of the features of this app would include:

Plant Information - Real Data From Open Ag

Using the Open Phenome Project as a model, we would look at different climate recipes and transfer them into plant information. OpenAg, the MIT initiative that served as an entry-point in our PFC journey, has sample recipes for growing greens. These can be converted into simple plant profiles by using the values of humidity (etc.) and simple research on the plant. We would simplify this into core variables and design plant profiles that give the ‘stats’ for plants a user might want to use.

Learning to Program

We’ve chosen to follow in the footsteps of Scratch and The Hour of Code Initiative and make our app a platform for enthusiastic coders and eager teachers. Using the basic recipes from OpenAg, we would condense the code into simple, easy-to-use blocks. Then, using the plant profile of their chosen veggie or fruit, they would code for the conditions that would optimize growth.

Any thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated.



Hey Adam - great to hear about the fantastic progress your FLL team has made with the Foam Farm. We’re excited to see what you do with the documentation that’s 8th-grade ready, and love the idea of an app - keep us posted!

Many of the recipes the OpenAg @ Media Lab team currently uses are to test as we refine experimentation, but could work for a Foam Farm project:

Our Wiki has two updated test climate recipes we’ve used for the PFC v2.1:

Our plant scientist guru, Dr. Peter, and our lead developer @rbaynes suggest starting with the arugula climate recipe since it’s an easy, fast-growing crop and ambient room temp will work great.

We have loved the idea of integrating Scratch for a long time and are working with Lifelong Kindergarten here at the Media Lab to see how to make that integration exciting and useful. can’t wait to hear how you make creating climate recipes easy and fun.

High fives, and be sure to let us @openag at the Media Lab (and @OpenAgFoundation team!) know how things go & grow after the break. cheers!


Hi! I am trying to implement the Foam Food computer in my Green Scholars class - finding curriculum connections and building. I would love to hear how your curriculum is set and updates on building. We are in Swampscott, MA.


Hi Wilbur–great to hear that you’re implementing the Foam Farms into your classes! I’ve taught seven classes with the Foam Farms (3rd, 5th, and 11th grade), and while the overall themes and basic lessons in urban agriculture, plant science, Python/Raspberry Pi, and human-centered design have been constant, I’ve changed the course organization a bit depending on the class.

Food Computer Program – Green Street Academy Outliine.pdf (66.1 KB)
Attached is an outline for my current class where we are expanding on our Foam Farm knowledge and scaling the technology to a room-sized “Food Computer.” I’m also focusing on sustainable energy and how to make small-scale farms more economically sustainable in urban environments (we’re in Baltimore, MD).

Here is an outline for my elementary school classes, where the focus was centered more on the logic and methodologies that made the Foam Farms work, rather than the coding and RPis themselves.

Let me know if you have any questions!

2017 Spring Semester: Food Computing in Education - Beta-Test
Growing Plants in Space - MARSfarm Curriculum

Hey, Melanie, great to see you back on the forums!

Have you finished your room-sized “Food Computer”? We are working on a similar project and should definitely collaborate! We’ve designed the rack systems which we are building now, and are exploring solutions for the enclosure already as well. I’m extremely interested to see what you’ve put together in your “full-room food computer”. How are you recording energy? @ATBFarms is working on a similar project with the V2 as well.

I’m very interested in what other materials you prepare/use for the curriculum, specifically with regards to your elementary school classes. It looks like you have several prepared “Activities” - would you mind posting a few examples - or at least your methodology around these, as well? Anything we can do to be a fly on the wall in your classroom would be extremely helpful for those of us trying to compile curriculum.


Haha–sorry I’ve been MIA for a while, but hoping to continue to be more active now that I’ve got some new initiatives more organized! We’re in the process of building the room-sized Food Computer, and I’m looking into monitoring energy use this week (looking through Adafruit to see if there are any cool accessories that we can use–any ideas?). I’ll look into ATB Farms to see what they’ve been up to–thanks!

I’ll post some of the actual activities/scripts for the younger classes this week. My high schoolers are in the process of doing something similar to @adamc 's kids in writing instructions for the build process, so I’ll keep you guys updated on how what those documents look like as we finish them also.


Kill-a-Watt meters made by P3 International are a great low-cost, consumer grade option for energy logging if you don’t mind recording the data yourself in a notebook or something like that. You plug the meter into an outlet, then you plug your lights into the meter. There’s a little LCD readout and buttons, but it doesn’t have a way to export logs.

There are also lots of fancier devices with logging capabilities that are aimed at the commercial building management, solar system monitoring, or smart home automation markets. These generally work by installing current transformers on wires supplying power to the circuits you want to monitor.


interesting, will look into this coming weeks. I’m planning to share my approach as well. Working on it with the AstroPlant team and Wunderpeople (based in THe Hague). First school project is running in Gent, and second one in the pipeline with the International School of The Hague. TBUpdated


Hello @hildreth!

I am one of the members of the First Lego League team that built a Foam Farm for our competition. After much toil, we finally got it up and running, and then ran into some problems. On behalf of our team, I have a few questions about the Foam Farm process and also about OpenAg in general, and also have some exciting news to share.

  1. We are growing Arugula in our Foam Farm. All was going well until we noticed that white “spores” were growing on the Oasis horticulture cubes. Shortly thereafter, the arugula began to wither (part of the reason was it was too hot, but I’ll ask about that in a minute). What is this, and how can we stop it?
  2. We read on this forum that the water temperature could be a problem. Judging by touch, ours is quite warm. What is the best way to solve this?
  3. We are having a hard time controlling the humidity in our Foam Farm. We are shooting for 60% humidity, but it just hangs around 15% most of the time, sometimes going up when the humidifier is activated (and not empty). Do you have any advice?
  4. I am not so sure how much you know about the Foam Farm itself, but we have been wondering about the bottle that is mounted on the outside. We assume it is for adding more liquid into the Foam Farm but have been unsure what we can put inside it - water with pH solution and nutrient “powder,” or something else?
  5. Should we line the inside of the Farm with Mylar to make the Farm more reflective?

And now, for the good news: thanks in part to our work with the Foam Farm, our team (Sophisticated A.I.) has progressed to the First Lego League World Festival in Detroit! We are one of 3/500 teams in our State that progressed to the competition, and we all hope we will have something growing to show to the judges by the competition (April 20).

Any reply and help you are able to give is very appreciated - thank you for your support so far! We would like to give a few more updates as we progress further through our season.

On behalf of Team 6347, Sophisticated A.I.,
Jake (8th grade)



  1. It will be easier for people to give you specific advice if you post pictures and measurements. For a good example, see this thread: Eliminating Clogging in HPA, and "stream misters"?

  2. What are your typical daily high & low temperature and humidity measurements in the room? If you don’t have a way to measure that already, you could try one of these. If the room temperature spends much time at or above the mid-70’s (Fahrenheit), you’re probably going to have a hard time growing greens that need cool weather. That’s assuming that the temperature in your foam farm is also below the mid-70’s–perhaps not a safe assumption.

  3. Is your foam farm in a building with drafts or poorly controlled heating? Your humidity shouldn’t be so low–15% is well into the territory of nosebleeds, cracked skin, and getting a static shock whenever you touch metal. About 30-50% is comfortable for people. Mold problems are common with high humidity over 60%. You’re describing 15% humidity and mold. That’s surprising. One possible explanation is that your sensor could be broken. Or, maybe it’s more to do with high water temperature.

    I wouldn’t worry about attempting to maintain humidity in the the foam farm at a different level than the ambient humidity in the room. Your foam farm is basically an insulated box with a heater in it. Your biggest problem is likely to be removing heat from the lights. You will either need a refrigeration unit (expensive. not recommended) or a lot of air exchange with the room (cheap). Assuming you use an air exchange fan for cooling, any humidity you add will just get sucked out by your fan.

  4. What is your water temperature? If you don’t have a thermometer, maybe you could try one of these.

  5. For general information on hydroponic greens, you could read some of the resources mentioned here: Technical books, publications, and links on hydroponics & CEA. The Cornell lettuce handbook might be a good starting point.

Assuming heat is your main problem, here are a couple articles I found with suggestions about hydroponics in warm weather:



Two days ago, I introduce the use case of the IoT + Agriculture + OpenSource the student use the PFC in Catholic Univerisity of South Korea. When I eat the lettuce on the plate in the PFC, a number of students surprised. They answer my survey about the PFC project, they have a huge interest relate to the problem of the future! About 2 hours is too short to explain more deep dive into the PFC’s technical architecture.
But It is awesome because I can show up my PFC to students and I can eat it with no hesitates.

On the screen, I display the PFC’s sensor data dashboard (Use the ElasticSearch Kibana Dashboard). After the class I take the survey report from the 140 students, In near future, I will summarize it and share with you.

Thank you.


We’re thrilled to hear the class went well. We’d love to see the survey and its findings. When you’re ready to summarize it, you can upload it to our Wiki here. Can you please let us know what PFC you built through our survey?


Amazing news you and your team will be heading to the competition in April. Regarding all your questions, please read the update on the status of PFC design and software developments here. Please look to our stellar community members for support on previous PFC versions. Great suggestions from @wsnook


Hello all,

I am writing from Bristol, UK, where I am currently working with Grow Bristol, a small hydroponic farm in this wonderful city, as their education officer, designing and delivering a program to local schools, focusing on sustainable food systems - I have recently been awarded a very generous bursary by the Bristol Good Food Awards for my professional development in this area, to work with children and adults across the city, educating and inspiring people to engage with food justice and sustainable agriculture. Part of this bursary will be spent on a trip to New York and Massachusetts to visit and learn from some the incredible projects in your states, of which there are so many!

I am very interested by the Food Computers and how they are being used in schools. I would absolutely love to make a visit to a school that is using one and learn a little about them and the STEM learning that goes alongside. I am hoping to be over in July. I know schools are out then but perhaps there is still a group looking after the plants? It would be wonderful to be able to take some expertise back to England with me to better inspire the people of Bristol. I wonder if anyone would be happy to have me visit?

With thanks,



Dear @OpenAgFoundation
I’m done your survey about building the PFC. In addition, last class using the PFC Project in the university, I correct 120 survey paper from the student who attends the class.

I’m writing to share this result of the survey summary URL( Google Forms). ( It was written in the Korean language, you can use the google translate program! )

Our team would give the proposal which has an education program using the PFC.

Thank you.


Hi all! I am an educator working at a non profit urban farm in Moab, Utah. I am interested in researching and building a food computer to use as an educational tool with the kids, but because we are a non profit with a tight budget, I am unsure if we will be able to fund the project. Does anyone have any recommendations for grants to apply for that could be used towards this project? Thanks!


@ceav2b May be able to help. I think she put together a brief, it may be specific to Missouri though. Funding for Food Computers

Also, check out these posts by @openag, I’m also interested to hear if @OpenAgFoundation has any ideas.

How much are you looking for? Hopefully I can help further: