Hi I´m Yao, a 4th grade student of the the Basque Culinary Center in Spain. I did my degree final project internship at OpenAg for 3 month from April to July. I was working on the Fermentabot project leaded by the flavor scientist of the OpenAg Arielle Jonathon.
The Project is to develop a hardware and software system, a version of the Food Computer environment, to study and control fermentations. Fermentations are in this case, microbial transformations of ingredients, moderated and mediated by the local micro-environment. In the longer term, to develop knowledge-sharing tools, datasets, and climate recipe-ingredient pairings. so that chefs, cooks, and other people who work with food can develop successful artisanal fermentations. Nowadays, fermented food is becoming more and more popular around the world not just by the chefs of fancy restaurants but also individual families. Due to the popularity of fermented food there are many brands of fermenters in the market for small scale use especially for families and restaurants. acording to my research, Among the commercial fermenters, the most common ones are the yogurt maker, beer maker and bread fermenter. Different kinds of fermentation require different conditions such as the temperature, humidity, pH, oxygen and so on. Also, it is very interesting to find out that different environmental conditions can lead to different results, good or bad. Tools for tracking and control of artisanal fermentations haven’t been readily available at a scale that is useful for kitchens, and there hasn’t been a lot of specific data besides general guidelines about how different fermentations work. the flavor development of a fermentation depends on the mix of microorganisms present and the environmental conditions are necessary to obtain a high-quality fermentation outcome, the environmental conditions control is the most important aspect to control.I would like to say that climate recipe is necessary for the Fermentabot to replica certain expected outcome.with the machine-readable climate recipe the environmental condition can be automatically introduced to the Fermentabot setting -value and replica certain expected outcome by creating the same environmental conditions. Since the OpenAg Climate Recipes are open sauce, it allows people to share fermentation knowledge all over the world online. It is a way to expand food style.
Mostly, my daily work was to test the machine by making fermentation experiments, such as vegetable lactic fermentations, koi making, miso making ect. Well generally first, just to see if the hardwares like the sensors hearers and humidifier is in good running, second, to see if the software is working stably or not, it must control the hardwares efficiently as well as collecting data such as the temperature, humidity, CO2, oxygen electrical conductivity . And then I feedback the problems to the mechanical and software engineer to let them fix it. And also, while making different kinds of fermentation,if come up with new ideas i can just talk to the engineer for support and we hack together. Also if i have any question about fermentations at biological level i can ask my scientist tutor Arielle Jonason, she is working half time in the OpenAg office and half time in NY. So every time she comes to the office I can just make the questions and get advises from her. The data collection is very important for creating the climate recipes and as well as data sharing with other users online so The creation of a user friendly graphical interface is essential. .The ability to collect long term data and customized controls is also important. At the current phase of the project, the progress of the Fermentabot is ,mostly depend on the support of engineer.
Chefs find it challenging to work with software and hardware engineers due to knowledge gaps. More cooperation and mutual understanding are needed for a better design of a robot such as Fermentabot for culinary use. The Fermentabot can potentially have a large impact on the way people make food. So far small scale fermentation was a manual process, without use of the modern technologies, such as sensors and computers. The technology can allow monitoring of fermentation, to provide feedback to the home cooks and chefs. This data can be shared around the world through the internet. Instead of buying fermented products, people can make it at home, thus democratizing fermentation. Also, this can reduce the waste of transportation costs, since the ingredients can be sourced locally. People without experience can use other people’s climate recipes and can create new recipes by using the simple interface. It makes fermentation a interactive activity online. which is pretty interesting for the foodies.
As a student of culinary world my knowledge of the culinary world was properly applied during the internship at the MIT Media Lab OpenAg Initiative. To make better experiments, more scientific research and study were realized under the support of my tutor at OpenAg Arielle . I learned more about microbiology and science behind fermentation.
Controlled-environment devices are increasing their functionalities as well as improving their accessibility. Traditionally, building one of these devices from scratch implies knowledge in fields such as mechanical engineering, digital electronics, programming, and energy management.
while working with engineers I had the opportunity to learn things about hardware and software, such as how to use various sensors and how to program the computer. Also, how to interface sensors with the computer and how to make custom wires and connectors. I had to use all of those things while making the Fermentabot from scratch; these things are which I never expected to learn in the culinary world. I learned that collaborations between chefs, scientists and engineers can lead to many new possibilities. To be innovative many different experts have to work together. personally, as a culinary student, after working at the Media Lab, I developed my interest on engineering and research, I believe that the expansion of knowledge and experience in different fields will lead to a new definition of new generation of chefs.
I really loved the experience of working at OpenAg, my co-workers were very nice and they helped me out with the knowledge gaps. It is a awesome team to work with. I would like to work with them on the project remotely in the future.