MV's as a tool for studying Medicinal Plants

Hello, my name is Ms. Maharaj, I am the science Chair at DeBakey High School for Health Professions (DHSHP), Houston Tx. DHSHP is a highschool dedicated to preparing students who are considering a career in the health professions.

This summer my students and I are exploring a new application of the MVs. We are using them for our first Controlled Environment Medicinal Plants Production (CEMPPro) internship.

This project is being coordinated by Dr. Surujdeo-Maharaj - Research Specialist at Prairie View A&M University. Along with PI Aruna Weerasooriya, they are exploring the potential of underutlized medicinal plants to be grown in controlled environments.

We are excited to have MV’s at our campus as they provide students with a benchtop greenhouse to study the relationship between medicinal plants and human health. There are tremendous STEAM opportunities with this project and with these units.

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Hi!
I am Robyn Leggington and I am a CEMPPro Internship. The plant that I am currently growing right now is Purple Basil and Genovese Basil. I currently am sharing my growing space (MV15) with another intern Sana who is growing Cherry Bell Radish. We planted these crops 6 days ago and some of them are starting to germinate! We are going to do some research on the medicinal benefits of these plants, I am focusing primarily on the usage of medicinal plants in disease prevention. At the end I will create a brief poster for people to see how they can use these plants to help prevent sickness.
Here is an image of my seeds!

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Hello, my name is Sana Ahmed and I am an intern in the CEMPPro internship, as well as a high school student at DHSHP.

The MVs I am using are MV15 and MV18 in our classroom, and in both units I’m growing cherry belle radishes. The difference between the two is that in MV18 I am growing radishes to be grown in soil inside the MV machine, while in MV15 I am growing seedlings to be further grown hydroponically. The end goal of this internship is to understand how different light frequencies affect antioxidant levels in medicinal plants, and we can use MV machines to experiment using different lighting conditions.

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Wow nice growth sana!

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Hello, my name is Dasha Santiago, and I am a part of this CEMPPro internship. I am currently growing Kalefetti Microgreens using one of the MVs that were provided to us. Our crops are 6 days old and all of my crops have started to germinate. We have been researching the effects of different medicinal crops on human health and how these two correlate to each other. The Kalefetti Microgreens at 6 days old are shown to the left of the picture below. The power of this tool is it allows us to see the health of the plant as shown by the dryness in different cells as opposed to the moist blocks in the rest.

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thank you robyn leggington!

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Hey there everyone! I’m George Kuo operating on MV1-0019 in the CEMPPro internship!
As an intern in controlled environmental medicinal plant production, my days are all about diving into the world of hydroponic systems and the fascinating realm of medicinal plants. I’m also deep into ongoing research, exploring how phytochemicals in these plants offer incredible health benefits. Working alongside a team, we’re pushing boundaries to boost crop yields and maximize those medicinal qualities. That being said, I’m currently working on growing Apogee Wheat, developed by Dr. Bruce Bugbee for NASA and the international space station at Utah State University. The wheat has just had a 100% germination rate with an average current height of 8.8 cm. I’m thrilled to be part of a cutting-edge internship where I get to grow apogee wheat hydroponically in a Dutch bucket system. It’s just incredible to think that this very crop is used aboard the International Space Station for its nutritional benefits and resilience in extreme environments.


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Hi, my name is Xandrei Enano and I am one of six students that are exploring MVs and their use in Controlled Environment Medicinal Plants Production. I was assigned to MV20, and while I am not currently using it at the moment, in the coming days I will be using it to cultivate microgreens. The microgreen that I am cultivating is Amaranth, Amaranthus tricolor. I planted it in its own growing tray and water reservoir, using coconut coir to plant my seeds on. It has just finished its germination stage in complete darkness, and in the forthcoming days I will place it in MV20 and watch its growth in the next week. After this initial experiment, I’ll be doing more research on the production of medicinal plants in a controlled environment!
Below is a picture of my amaranth after its germination stage.

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Hello, my name is Jaiden Vera and I am one of the students involved in the CEMPPro internship as well as a rising senior at DeBakey High School. During this internship, I will be sharing the MV17 growing chamber with Dasha, another CEMPPro intern. During this internship, Dasha will be growing Kalefeti and I will be growing Salanova Red Butterhead Lettuce. We planted these crops 6 days ago on 6/11/24 and are growing them using a hydroponic system. As of today, the plants in MV17 have reached a 100% germination rate. The main goal of this internship is to research the production of medicinal plants by controlling the environmental conditions in which it is grown.

Very interesting, I’m looking forward to more updates on this!

Today, 6/20/2024, in a meeting with the creators of MarsFarm, Peter Webb and Drew Thomas, we discussed the beginnings of MarsFarm and how they created a controlled environment agriculture system that they saw before that was more cost-effective. They discussed that the objective of Marsfarms was not only to be able to grow plants out of space but to grow plants in any climate by replicating the optimal growing conditions for that plant. We discussed food waste and its impact on climate and how that should be used to determine when to cultivate crops to minimize the adverse effects on our climate. We also discussed some ways to make Marsfarms more accessible in the education system.

Today we were able to listen to Peter Webb and Drew Thomas from MarsFarm and learn about how they created CEA systems that are able to be used in small scale settings. It was interesting learning about the different systems they connected together in order to make the MV machine coherent. We also understood why there is a demand for machines like this in the industry, such as for environmental means, and how they are planning to make machines more accessible. Something that stood out to me was that MarsFarm started from a problem seen in the community and grew into something larger. Thank you to both Peter and Drew for speaking to us!

Earlier today our group was able to have Peter Webb and Drew Thomas as guest speakers, and we learned about the history of Mars Farms. Their presentation revealed why they decided to start this project and the humble beginnings with which they started. I was most captivated by the fact that the co-founders continuously aim at making these farms accessible to everyone and strive for a greater outreach in the community and to bring awareness about CEA systems. I am deeply thankful for their time and efforts in today’s presentation and hope to hear more about what they do in the future!

On Friday, 6/20/2024, my interns and I had the great privilege of meeting with the founders of MarsFarm, Peter Webb and Drew Thomas. Throughout the meeting, we learned about the history of MarsFarms and how it has become so successful to this day. I was surprised to learn how affordable they were able to create one of their first projects, and how far it has come to this day. They were able to tell us about our future projects in hopes of creating different sized MVs to increase accessibility to a wider population. Our goals are very in line with theirs for the future in hopes of expanding controlled environment agriculture to every school.

On Thursday the 20th, my fellow interns and I had the privilege of meeting with the creators of MarsFarm, Peter Webb and Drew Thomas, via Zoom. In this meeting, we learned about how MarsFarm first came to be and how it has helped impact the CEA industry. The creators discussed that the demand for such technology continues to grow, and they hope to make it more accessible to the public to raise awareness about the importance of CEA. One of their main goals is for schools across the United States to have access to MV units as a tool to aid learning and spread awareness of CEA. I am thankful to both Peter and Drew for taking the time to speak with us!

Our meeting with Peter Webb and Drew Thomas from MarsFarm was truly eye-opening. They shared their inspiring journey from humble beginnings to pioneering Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) systems. Their passion for creating optimal growing conditions for plants in any climate resonated deeply with me, especially their focus on reducing food waste and environmental impact. I was particularly moved by their commitment to making CEA technology accessible, aiming to integrate it into education and community initiatives. Hearing about MarsFarm’s evolution from a local initiative to a global leader in sustainable agriculture left me inspired and hopeful for the future of farming both on Earth and beyond.