By Ciara O'Brien
Caleb Harper didn’t start out with the intention of revolutionising the food industry and building an army of “nerd farmers." In fact, despite a family background in agriculture, his first career had nothing to do with farming. The man who has made a name for himself by building “food computers” started out as an architect.
“I used to professionally design data centres in the US, and hospitals around the UK. As an architect I was always designing climate because data centres are about getting rid of heat at all costs, so you’re really designing a building for a computer,” he explained. “And with the hospitals I was designing a building, especially surgical theatres, to protect for contamination and disease—the biologic control of an atmosphere or environment.”
It seemed like a natural fit, if a circuitous route, to start building climates for plants. But the inspiration for his new career didn’t come from his background; it was a trip to Japan with the MIT Media Lab in the wake of the tsunami and Fukushima disaster that triggered his interest.