MARSfarm Customer FAQ

This thread is going to be a MARSfarm FAQ to help answer questions you all have! If you have any more questions, feel free to reply with them on this thread:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Here is an image showcasing the data read out in our software interface, and see image labels for how teachers can educate about the impacts/effects of changing CO2 levels during plant growth:

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

These images display various experiment setups that we have seen or done ourselves:

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.

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.

Here is a link to a forum post that walks you through turning the raw data into graphs and tables on google sheets:

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 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 ( 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 ASA) 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 ASA so that the districts and ASA staff can view the data.

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.

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.

Networking Configuration (IT departments)

Why do the devices need a static IP address?

  • Assigning a consistent IP address to the static MAC enables simplified network management and enables your team to set up targeted firewall rules.
  • MAC Address - Ethernet This method was chosen at the request of school districts. We use a static IP address for Ethernet and recommend that as the most reliable/long-term method of connection.
  • MAC Address - Wi-Fi The MV1 can be configured to connect via Wi-Fi as well, this MAC is not static by default.

Will traffic will flow bidirectionally on ports 27017 and 8883 and what type of data will flow on those ports?

  • Port 27017: Handles bidirectional MongoDB transactions, which typically include device settings and operational data.
  • Port 8883: Used solely for receiving new settings from the MARSfarm web application. The device subscribes to an MQTT topic, and when a user creates a new “trial,” the data is sent to this topic.
  • Port 27201: Sends environmental data such as temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels to MongoDB.
  • Port 443: Utilized for securely sending images from the device to S3.

How will teachers and students access and log in to the software? Does this require external URLs?

  • Web App Our web application is SSL-hosted on Heroku and uses Google authentication for user login.
  • Permissions & Accounts Currently, anyone within your district has the ability to log in to the Web App and view data from all of your MV1s.
    • We use the teacher/student Google Account for logging into the web application. All we store is the school’s domain name, no user data is stored by MARSfarm.
    • We do this to eliminate the need for any assignment of users to the device and to encourage sharing between teachers/classes so more students can access the visualized datasets and photos remotely.