Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden reently announced that it has received a grant of nearly $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to explore the challenges of growing food in space.
Combined with a $750,000 grant it received from NASA in June, the nearly $1 million will support a new, first-of-its-kind community workspace dedicated to the technology of growing food.
“With the funding from IMLS and NASA, Fairchild will be equipped for anyone to help develop new food growing technologies,” said Dr. Carl Lewis, Fairchild’s director, “Together, Fairchild and our community will join forces to create the world’s first makerspace in a botanic garden.”
Fairchild’s Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio will focus on specific challenges related to NASA’s food production initiatives, including growing plants in small containers with the limited resources available on spacecraft, and using automation to plant, harvest, and maintain crops with little or no intervention from astronauts.
The facility, a so-called makerspace, will be the first public facility dedicated to NASA’s food production challenges and the first project to leverage community input in the development of plant-growing hardware.
To create the new makerspace, Fairchild is renovating two existing centrally located buildings. The grants will help equip the facility with fabrication equipment including 3D printers and laser cutters, allowing users — area students and adults — to turn ideas into reality.
“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities. They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other,” said IMLS director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “IMLS is proud to support their work through our grant making as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”
The Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio is being developed in collaboration with Moonlighter Miami, a makerspace with broad local outreach programs, and the Nation of Makers, a nonprofit organization that fosters collaboration among makerspaces nationwide. It will serve students in elementary, middle, and high schools, local community members of all ages, and makers throughout the United States.
For more information, visit www.fairchild.org.