Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
What is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)?
CEA represents a modern approach to farming that leverages tech to create an optimized environment for plant growth, enabling year-round production, sustainable practices, and efficient resource utilization.
What is the value of MARSfarm products?
Our greenhouses, similar in size to a microwave oven, provide the opportunity for hands-on experience with CEA technology in a classroom setting. The LEDs, fans, and irrigation systems in our greenhouses replicate those used in larger-scale CEA operations.
Why is a MARSfarm well-suited for AgEd?
Each greenhouse can be operated independently, allowing students to use them for FFA Agriscience Fair or Supervised Agricultural Experiences without disrupting regular classroom instruction.
Have MARSfarm units been used in any research?
MARSfarm units have been utilized in various middle and high school classrooms for Agriscience Fair projects, Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs), and Proficiency Reports. One student achieved seventh place nationwide in the FFA Agriscience Fair by using our units to study the impact of different photoperiods on Bok Choy. Moreover, the MV1 has been utilized in postsecondary education studies, including research conducted at California State University at Monterey Bay on the heat tolerance of lettuce.
Does a MARSfarm qualify for Perkins funding?
Yes, our greenhouses qualify as “Equipment for CTE Instruction” under Perkins’ Allowable Expenditures.
In fact, most schools have purchased our greenhouses using funds from Perkins allotments.
How many kits would you recommend?
It is helpful to have more than one to run parallel experiments side-by-side. We recommend that teachers purchase two units of the same kind. This will enable you to conduct a true comparison between the plants in the two units. Each type of unit allows for different things. The MV1 unit is recommended for higher-level, data-driven classes, as it provides more experimentation capabilities and better data comparison. For more traditional science courses, or teachers interested in participating in the Fairchild Botanical Garden’s ‘Growing Beyond Earth’ citizen science project, we suggest the smaller FG.V4 unit.
Is there a discount if I purchase multiple?
Currently, there are two packages for the MV1. The first package offers a $500 discount when purchasing four units, and the second package provides a $5000 discount when purchasing twenty-five units.
Classroom Use Inquiries
What careers can a MARSfarm prepare students for?
CEA equipment technician, greenhouse cultivation manager, plant scientist, agricultural engineer, culinary careers, computer programmer, data scientist, etc.
How many students per kit would you recommend?
We typically recommend that each unit be used by 1 to 5 students. Some organizations use our chambers on an individual basis so a student can run a research/science fair project, while some use our chambers to facilitate a small-group inquiry-based learning curriculum.
Does “kit” refers to the growth chamber or growing materials?
A kit includes both the growth chamber and the necessary consumables. When you make a purchase, we provide approximately two semesters’ worth of seeds, growing media, fertilizer, and pots.
How many days does it take to run a complete experiment to maximize growth?
The vast majority of our growth experiments run for 30 days, with some extending up to 45 days. This allows you and your students to efficiently run and compare multiple experiments over just a single semester.
Can I manipulate or regulate the levels of natural elements (i.e. CO2)?
The units cannot control the levels of natural elements. However, each unit is equipped with a CO2 sensor that collects CO2 level data and allows you to observe changes within and around the units. In addition to quantitative data, the units capture and upload photos every hour, enabling you to compare what your plants looked like from days with low/average/high CO2 levels and assess any potential correlations.
Do both units have the capacity to accommodate approximately 6 pots?
There are various ways to set up the unit, depending on your growing preferences and experimental requirements. Typically, people use the pots that come with the purchase; in that case, six pots will fit in your unit. However, the box can be used in many different configurations. We have observed experiments with a single larger plant as well as setups with multiple smaller plants.
Do I get access to the raw data along with the tables and graphs?
The MV1 comes enabled with a Google Sheet where raw data uploads every hour. For an FG.V4 unit, students are responsible for manually recording their data.
Do you collect data and user information?
We never collect/retain any personal user data through our software – about students or teachers. The sensor data and photos are about plants, and we authenticate via domain address – not personal username/passwords – we don’t keep those. To be clear, we just trust Google to tell us whether someone is part of an organization, and if they are we let them in – no more questions asked.
Can I access my data while I am not present with the unit?
All of our hardware is configured to send data to the cloud, which is then turned into charts and made accessible through an online web application. There is no mobile app, no local interface, and no additional hardware/software costs associated with the product.
Can data be shared with people outside your organization/district?
MARSfarm Mini models (MM.V0.21 & V0.23) use “security through obscurity” – which means that unless you’re looking for the units you wouldn’t find them – however they are publicly accessible to anyone with the correct URL. This has advantages (like being able to put a QR code on the front of a unit which anyone can scan to see the data) but does mean that the data isn’t private.
Everyone within the same district domain (ex: @district.mo.k12.mo.us) will by default have “view” access to all of the trials for MV1s sold to that school. We would like to add the ability for a school district (or purchasing organization lending the units – like Fairchild or AZSA) to “opt-in” for having their MV1 data publicly accessible as well though. Currently, we do have the ability to add multiple organizations to the same experiment, which is a group of trials – this is how we’ll configure AZSA so that the districts and AZSA staff can view the data.
Can we use our own seeds?
Absolutely! While we do provide seeds, their usage is optional. Our units are specifically designed to accommodate a variety of plant varieties, different pot choices, as well as media options (ex: vermiculite, coconut coir, rock wool, etc). This flexibility allows you to integrate the units with your specific experiments and curriculum requirements. Here is a link to our MV1 Pot Setup Guide 1. This guide takes you through the various consumables (including seeds, growing media, fertilizer, and pots) we provide and how they are set up in the unit.
What is a recipe?
A recipe serves as the set of control settings within your MARSfarm Version 1 unit. With this feature, you have the flexibility to customize various parameters, such as photoperiods, day and night temperatures, water output, timing of water supply, and the intensity of lights. This personalized recipe empowers you to have precise control over the internal environment of your unit, ensuring optimal conditions for your crops’ growth and/or the experiment you are running.
How do I create a recipe?
Upon request, MARSfarm will configure a custom recipe (fill out this FORM), which will then be publicly available to all organizations. Anyone with an MV1 may then “Create A New Trial” by selecting that recipe and a device that they have access to through their organization.
We have chosen this approach (rather than allowing someone to just change the temperature within the UI) so that we can collaborate and test the recipes internally with our hardware.