Entry #4- Hydroponics and the Refugee Crisis

This week, we learned more in depth about various refugee situations across the globe, including their needs and available resources. This helped my team to form more specific ideas about the type of system we want. We are still sticking with the wick system, because of its simplicity and affordability. But we decided to add on to the system a manual air pump. Using an electric one is both complicated and expensive, and would make the entire garden vulnerable in a power outage. A manual pump will improve the oxygen and nutrient supply to the water and plants. We also decided against lettuce as our chosen test-vegetable. After hearing more about the refugee situations and food shortages, I think that a vegetable or fruit with more substance and greater nutrition would be ideal. I believe our team will pursue kale, since it grows well with wick systems and works similarly to lettuce, although it is also packed full of more nutrients and will satiate hunger for longer periods of time. Understanding the refugee crisis more deeply made me so excited for our OS project this semester. It put the project into “real-life” terms and helped me see how what we’re doing and how what everyone across the globe is able to do through open-source design could have incredible impact in poor conditions such as these camps.

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Entry #3- Hydroponics Planning

Given what we’ve been studying about open-source and its impact in the world of hydroponics, we now begin to consider our options for a hydroponic system of our own. There are almost limitless models shown on the internet, thanks to the open-sourcing of hydroponics as a whole. But in this class, we are considering the resources (or lack thereof) and needs of refugee camps specifically, which puts considerable restraints on the type of system we’re going to build.

In general, there are five main types of hydroponic garden systems: wick, deep water culture (DWC), ebb & flow, drip, and nutrient film technique (NFT). Each of these has unique benefits and disadvantages. The wick system stood out to me not only because it is the simplest design (making it easiest to replicate), but also because it is the only one of the five that does not require electricity (to power an air or water pump). In a refugee camp, access to many of these kinds of pumps is uncertain and the dependence on electricity is highly risky. Given that, I believe a wick system would be best for the purpose of this project. The main downside to a wick hydroponic garden is that it cannot support large plants that need to consume a lot of water. It’s the best system for most leafy greens and herbs. For this reason, I think we’ll plant lettuce or beans as our experiment vegetable. I’m not sure yet what our design will look like, but I’m excited to see where this project goes and to feel the benefits firsthand of the open-sourcing that has already taken place in this field of science.

Entry #2- Tesla

Although it’s risky, open-sourcing a design or product can (in many cases) ultimately benefit a company far more than a patent or copyright would, as seen through Tesla’s experience with electric vehicles. Reading the articles on the OSD of EVs really helped me understand more fully why a company would choose to copyleft in the first place. I think I was more skeptical about OSD before studying Tesla because I was unsure how a company would actually be able to capture more benefits than a patent in reality. But reading Elon Musk’s experience and the reasons he chose to do what he did with EVs helped give me a fuller picture of the way that OSD could transform a market overtime.

I especially appreciated the elements of OSD listed on page 12 in the case study, Open Innovation in EVs. One element that particularly stood out to me stated, “Building a better business model is better than getting to the market first.” I really liked this argument because I think it presents one of the strongest cases for OSD- that time patiently spent in R&DIY and testing all around the globe will allow companies to not only have a better handle on the product they want to create, but also on the customer and the market’s demand. I think that in reality, the temptation is for businesses to behave conversely to this argument: to flood the market immediately with a new product and claim a stake in as much of it as possible, before competitors roll in. But I believe that allowing a market to develop over time through OSD could potentially create a more stable environment and a more efficient and successful business in the long-run.

Entry #1- IP and OSD

I originally signed up for this class because I know very little about Open Source Design and the potential benefits it could bring to business owners, designers, and engineers. I was incredibly skeptical as to why a company would choose to open-source anything that they could conversely patent and profit from. Having now started studying intellectual property rights and open source design to a greater extent, I can confidently say that much of that skepticism has receded.

Reading The Intellectual Property Driven Nation allowed me to see more clearly the cons and drawbacks of having the global market rely so heavily on IP rights. Especially studying the negative impact of some IP-related situations on the developing world caused me to rethink my conceptions of IP’s benefits. Prior to this class, I unknowingly (but also wrongly) assumed that since IP rights have worked well in the American capitalist market, that they should work equally as well in societies across the globe. Yet as developing areas attempt to keep up with the rise of IP rights, various issues have surfaced (such as lack of FDI, low local capacities to absorb high technological innovation, and the “brain drain”) and have demonstrated the darker impact of a growing IP-dependent world.

My skepticism toward open-source design has not been completely dismissed,  although I look forward to a class whose studies may continue to prove me wrong. I am now beginning to see the various ways that OSD may pose a much better option than IP rights, particularly in the developing world. Its implications for societal progression, particularly in areas such as medicine, mathematics, and software, are incredible, and I believe that OSD could greatly benefit many global markets. My question of skepticism, though, is one of practicality- is it realistic to expect intellectual innovators to also see these aggregate benefits and sacrifice IP rights in exchange for them?