On March 23, the Technology Association of Georgia threw its annual celebration of the intersection of technology, business and innovation in the state. The Georgia Technology Summit, which highlights industry trailblazers, spotlights emerging technology and recognizes the Top 40 Innovative Companies in Georgia, typically draws about 1,500 attendees in the form of executives, entrepreneurs, academics and tech professionals.
It also has a history of showcasing thought-provoking, compelling technology, and this year was no exception.
I came for the technology update, and I stayed for Shimon the Jazz-Playing Robot and an agriculture talk about how you just ate a year-old apple from Caleb Harper. (I am not making either of these up, I swear!)
This is Shimon:
Shimon is one of the Robotic Musicianship Projects at Georgia Tech's Center for Music Technology. It's "an improvising robotic marimba player that is designed to create meaningful and inspiring musical interactions with humans, leading to novel musical experiences and outcomes." In short, Shimon is riveting.
If this turned out to be as fascinating to you as it was to me, check out more videos of Shimon and friends here — that's right, there are more adorable little musical robots where that one came from — and advances in the field of Robotic Musicianship, like cyborg drummers. (Still not making this up.)
An Apple a Day ...
Now then, let's talk about that year-old apple, shall we?
Caleb then asked the audience how old we thought it was, and who thought it was less than two weeks old. A good chunk of us assertively raised our hands, because look at it, it looks pristine!
He called us "optimistic" and asked who thought it was less than two months old. About a quarter of the audience still tentatively raised their hands.
Caleb shook his head, we looked disbelieving, and then he told us the average age of an apple in a grocery store in the United States — and most of the rest of the world — is eleven months.
I was, at that time, eating an apple. I, and the rest of the audience, made a horrified face. I put the apple down. (And then I tweeted at Caleb, because, thank you for sharing, but also, ew.)
Anyway, from that point on Caleb had my attention.
He and a group of engineers, architects and scientists are working to reverse the global food crisis through agricultural technology by developing "future food systems." Caleb himself does this not only through his gig at MIT Media Lab, but also with controlled-environment agriculture platforms that he calls "food computers." Those platforms are "soilless agriculture technologies," which means they use other growth mediums like air or water.
This is important because, while we now have this amazing international food network that lets us do things like import apples year-round, it's neither sustainable long-term nor actually currently working for many countries. Among the many problems Caleb touched on was that in Japan, for example, the land is so contaminated that they have to import 70 percent of their food. And in many countries, the next generation doesn't want to go into farming; they go into cities and train for tech jobs.
So now we have no land to plant on, and no people to farm it even if we did. What do we do?
Caleb's answer: "Food platforms."
If you want to know more about Caleb, the OpenAG project, MIT Media Labs and food computers, or just more info about why your apple is probably a year old, check out Caleb's fantastic TED Talk here.
And just very quickly, because you know how I love me some startup hubs, I do want to mention the new kid coming to town: The Farm Startup Accelerator.
Announced at GTS and backed by Comcast NBCUniversal as part of LIFT Labs for Entrepreneurs, The Farm will be located at The Battery Atlanta, the development that includes the new Braves stadium, SunTrust Park. It will offer "a variety of programs to support and nurture selected startups and entrepreneurs, including a twice-a-year, three-month accelerator program, premium incubator office space, cutting edge hardware prototype lab and coworking."
It'll be interesting to see where The Farm falls in the Atlanta startup landscape. I'm betting those entrepreneurs who live north of the Perimeter will be taking a close look purely to skip the terrifyingly prophesied Braves-game-day traffic nightmare, if nothing else.
Applications for The Farm will open later this summer, and the inaugural program is slated for early 2018.
A brief Shameless plug
Because I can.
Of the Top 40 Innovative Technology Companies named by TAG, SalesLoft was in the Top 10. We also took home the award for "most likely to create jobs." Woot!
Full disclosure: As a member of the TAG Blogger Network, I am invited to attend some TAG events at reduced or no cost in return for live social media and blogging. However: (1) I've been a TAG member for a long time, including years where I paid my own membership fee versus a corporate membership, and I truly believe in the value of the group; (2) I am not paid to endorse or renounce anything, and wouldn't do that anyway; and (3) all opinions here are absolutely mine and completely honest. TAG, and everybody else I write about or share, gets what they get with me.