MARSfarm | St. Louis Public Radio

MARSfarm

MARSfarm CEO and founder Peter Webb standing next to a chamber he built to grow basil at the St. Louis Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

A food computer device developed by St. Louis startup company MARSfarm.
MARSfarm

When human exploration on Mars becomes possible, St. Louis startup MARSfarm aspires to grow crops there.

But because it will be years before humans will be able to fly to Mars, the company is focused on building technologies that help feed people on Earth. This year, the startup has developed its “$300 food computer,” a foil box that measures two feet on each side that contains plants, lights, sensors and single-board computers known as Raspberry Pi.