March 20, 2020

James Kent, the chef of Crown Shy in New York City, using his SproutsIO automated indoor growing system. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ross

By 2050, almost 10 billion people are expected to be living on planet Earth, and most of them will reside in urban areas. Some experts say we will need to take advantage of everything in our agricultural arsenal to feed all those mouths. Could a technology-based method of growing veggies and herbs inside the home be part of the solution? Innovation Hub’s senior producer, Elizabeth Ross, reports on a relatively new approach to growing food which has its roots in outer space.

Jennifer Farah, co-founder and CEO of the start-up SproutsIO, at the company’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ross

Three Takeaways:

  • A start-up in Cambridge, Massachusetts called SproutsIO has developed a WiFi-equipped, automated indoor growing system, which uses hydroponic and aeroponic growing methods, along with LED lights. Customers can use it to grow root vegetables, herbs, leafy greens, and fruiting plants. According to the company, the system is highly efficient and needs only 2 percent of the water that is typically required for traditional growing and uses half the power of a laptop.  
  • Emerging high-tech in-home gardening systems, such as the one created by SproutsIO co-founder and CEO, Jennifer Farah, are part of a broader indoor agriculture movement that has taken off in the U.S. and other parts of the world, according to Cary Mitchell, a professor of horticulture at Purdue University. The movement, which also utilizes indoor vertical farms and repurposed warehouses, has blossomed in response to the demand for fresh produce that is locally grown year-round, Mitchell says.
  • Controlled environment agriculture can trace its roots back to space, sort of. Mitchell says that NASA was the agency that first funded research on Earth to study the use of LED lighting for plants.

Lunch is prepared at Crown Shy in New York City. Photo credit: Elizabeth Ross

More Reading:

  • Discover all you need to know about NASA’s space garden, “Veggie,” and the growing experiments aboard the International Space Station. It’s official, we are going to Mars, but will we be able to grow potatoes there like Matt Damon did in “The Martian”? Business Insider explores the Potatoes on Mars project to find out.
  • Learn more about issues concerning food security and food justice through the research of Julian Agyeman, a professor of urban and environmental policy at planning at Tufts University.
  • A scholar at the University of California, Berkeley explains how urban agriculture could be used to help provide greater access to fresh fruit and vegetables for underserved and low-income communities.  
  • Once it reopens, you can visit our exhibit at the Museum of Science to see the automated indoor growing system developed by SproutsIO and learn about the company’s efforts to reconnect people with their food.

SproutsIO, Urban Farming, NASA, restaurants, Green, farming

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