At the St. Louis Science Center’s GROW exhibit on agriculture, a metal box casts violet light on a dozen basil plants.
A St. Louis-based startup called MARSfarm built the growth chamber, which it calls a food computer. The company’s instructions on how to build them and program small computers to grow produce are posted online. The small team that runs MARSfarm is also teaching high school students in the St. Louis area how to build them.
The startup aims to help astronauts grow crops on Mars. But since that’s years away, the company is focused on teaching people how computer technology can be used to help address the increasing demands for food on Earth, said Peter Webb, MARSfarm’s founder and CEO.