Florence business owners sprouting creativity at Studio 23

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FLORENCE, Ala. — Studio 23 in Florence, it’s a place where creatives can go to connect and show off and sell their work in a collective environment, but sprouting in the loft above is a different kind of art.

Upstairs, you’ll find Justin Murphy and Ada Dolan, co-owners of InnovationMAD. They are industrial designers who focus on innovation and invention. They’ve set up a unique form of gardening, an aeroponic farming system.

“It’s a fancy way of saying we farm with plants whose roots aren’t in soil but are suspended in the air,” said Dolan.

Murphy says transitioning to aeroponics was easy because of the research he’d already done at Auburn University. “I wrote my thesis on designing and building a high-pressure system,” said Murphy. “We’re not exactly farmers; we’re designers that are farming.”

The aeroponics process is simple; nutrient-rich water is pumped from a bin below and sprayed as a mist inside each vertical tube, feeding the roots within. No soil is involved, and it’s eco-friendly. It uses no pesticides and requires very little water; it can go a long time without being refilled because most of the water lost is absorbed by the plants.

Murphy and Dolan say this is the future of farming. “It’s kind of the cutting edge; it’s just now starting to take off,” said Dolan. Murphy says this is how they grow on the International Space Station and it’s how we’ll grow food on Mars.

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