- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A new $7.3 million permanent exhibit meant to teach how food is produced is coming next summer to the St. Louis Science Center, featuring a flock of chickens and a do-it-yourself farming area.

The one-acre exhibit called “GROW” will be open year-round and include more than 40 displays encompassing chemistry, economics, life sciences, culture and technology, following the seasons and stages of food production. Along with an introduction to farming, the exhibit will feature facts about water, weather and how plants work, and a greenhouse with a working aquaponic farm, in which fish fertilize the plants.

There also will be bees and a fermentation station, where visitors can experience what the center’s president and CEO, Bert Vescolani, called “the power of using microbes and the unique environment that these little critters live in to make the things we love, like cheese and wine and beer.”

The project - the first major addition of a permanent exhibit at the center since 1991 - will be underwritten largely by private donations and bond money, along with a National Science Foundation grant.

In assessing prospects for new ventures at the center, the staff noted that with the global population expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, a major increase in global food production will be required, Vescolani said.

“We got excited about things that were happening in food and agriculture,” Vescolani told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1OcChHc). “We tested it with our scientific advisers, and it resonated with everyone.”

The idea, he said, “is to learn more about the food that we eat.”

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