May 20, 2024
ATS NE July 2022
UF researchers Anna-Lisa Paul and Rob Ferl work with lunar soils in their lab.
ATS NE July 2022

Mary Barrow (left), who restored more than 20 buildings and homes in Gainesville, died in April at age 85. She and her husband, Dr. Mark Barrow (right), played a key role in opening Alachua County's first historical museum, the Matheson History Museum.

ATS NE July 2022
Omni Amelia Island Resort has opened a 10-hole, par-3 course called Little Sandy as well as an accompanying 18-hole putting course.
ATS NE July 2022
John Bitter and Amy Van Scoik's Frog Song Organics sell produce to restaurants in the Jacksonville area.

Northeast Florida Roundup

UF researchers successfully grow plants in lunar soil

Vanessa Caceres | 7/31/2022

Lunar Sprouts

University of Florida scientists have grown plants in soil from the moon, a first in history and a milestone in lunar and space exploration.

Researchers showed that the Arabidopsis plant — commonly used in scientific experiments because its genome has been fully mapped — can successfully sprout and grow in lunar soil. The research comes as the Artemis program plans to return humans to the moon.

“Artemis will require a better understanding of how to grow plants in space,” says Rob Ferl, a plant molecular biologist who is one of the study’s authors and a distinguished professor of horticultural sciences in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, a co-author of the paper, lead a team focused on growing plants in space environments at UF’s Space Plants Lab.

The researchers used only 12 grams of soil — just a few teaspoons — collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions to the moon from 1969 to 1972. To grow the tiny lunar garden, the researchers used thimble-sized wells in plastic plates normally used to culture cells. Filling each “pot” with approximately a gram of lunar soil, the scientists added a nutrient solution along with a few seeds from the Arabidopsis plant. Nearly all of the seeds sprouted.

The project is a first step toward one day growing plants for food and oxygen on the moon or during space missions, the scientists say.

“For future, longer space missions, we may use the moon as a hub or launching pad. It makes sense that we would want to use the soil that’s already there to grow plants,” Ferl says.


  • Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside is one of three U.S. hospitals to enroll patients in a global clinical trial to study artificial intelligence-based software that could change how atrial fibrillation is treated. The TAILORED-AF trial will study Volta Medical’s VX1 artificial intelligence software to treat cardiac arrhythmias. Trial results are expected in 2024.
  • Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville have opened the Borowy Family Children’s Critical Care Tower. The seven-story, $224-million tower includes a neonatal intensive care center, a pediatric intensive care unit and a cardiovascular intensive care unit.
  • Walmart Health’s first Florida location opened in Jacksonville in April. Walmart Health locations are adjacent to Walmart Supercenters and include services such as primary care, labs, X-ray and EKG, and behavioral health and counseling. Four other locations have opened around Florida so far this year.


  • The University of North Florida’s Coggin College of Business has launched a Women in Business Initiative with funding from Jacksonville’s Borland Groover, CSX, the Adecco Group and Truist. The initiative will provide students with mentorship and advancement opportunities. Also, the college has launched its Executive Briefcase program for executives to build technical and interpersonal skills.


  • The Florida Blue Foundation has awarded a $3.7-million grant to UF Health Jacksonville’s Urban Health Alliance to develop a statewide Center for Health Equity and Social Justice. The center will share community-based research and tools. The Urban Health Alliance is partnering with the 904Ward, the Florida Health Justice Project and the Hispanic Federation to implement the grant.
  • North Florida Land Trust has received a $305,000 grant to help build its land stewardship and management infrastructure. The grant was received from an anonymous source and is the largest the North Florida Land Trust has received to be used for stewardship.
  • Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry has opened a newly expanded Mayport Pantry and Service Center in Atlantic Beach.
  • Jeff Ettling is the new president of the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. In addition to serving as a CEO at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., he also was the curator of one of the world’s largest collections of amphibians and reptiles at the St. Louis Zoo for more than 20 years.


  • Outdoor apparel maker Gillz has expanded its corporate footprint to include an office in Jacksonville Beach. Its other corporate offices are in Ohio and New York. The company has 30 employees and plans to expand to 50 within a year.
  • Cannabis company Planet 13 has signed a lease to open its first Florida location in Orange Park. The second of six planned Florida locations is in Port Richey in Pasco County.
  • SG Blocks, which converts shipping containers into homes and other types of structures, has moved its headquarters from New York to Jacksonville.
  • Shaw’s Southern Belle Frozen Foods of Jacksonville has rebranded as Shaw Family Seafood.


  • Breeze Airways has added flights from Jacksonville International Airport to Westchester County Airport in New York.
  • Southeast Toyota Distributors will relocate its operations from a 50-acre facility at JaxPort’s Talleyrand Marine Terminal and a 23-acre private facility to a single 88-acre site at JaxPort’s Blount Island Marine Terminal. The 25-year agreement includes $210 million from JaxPort, Southeast Toyota Distributors and the Florida Department of Transportation. Southeast Toyota moved 157,000 vehicles through JaxPort in 2021 and is a subsidiary of JM Family Enterprises in Deerfield Beach.


  • Mary Barrow, who restored more than 20 historic buildings and homes in Gainesville, died in April at age 85. She and her husband, Dr. Mark Barrow, played a key role in opening Alachua County’s first historical museum, the Matheson History Museum.


Growing Business

For the past 10 years, husband and wife John Bitter and Amy Van Scoik have been growing certified organic food on 63 acres in Hawthorne in Alachua County. From produce to pigs and hens, their Frog Song Organics runs a community supported agriculture program where participants can get a weekly share of what’s in season among 80 crops. Bitter, Van Scoik and the farm’s 30 employees also sell produce to restaurants such as Rue Saint Marc in Jacksonville. It also participates in a variety of farmers markets.

The company has more than $1.4 million in annual sales.

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