Advanced Hydroponic Lab Coming to the Pee Dee

June 3, 2022

Hartsville, SC – The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM) launched the installation of its Hydroponic Research Lab on its campus in Hartsville with a ground-breaking ceremony on May 31, 2022.  

Hydroponics are the cultivation of plants using nutrients in a water solution without the presence of soil. It allows high density growing without the use of pesticides or disturbed land and uses less labor, chemicals, and water than traditional growing methods. 

GSSM’s Hydroponic Research Lab was conceived two years ago by teachers and staff as a way for the school fulfill its mission of preparing the next generation of leaders to engage with the world’s most significant issues. It is designed to be a collaborative resource connecting all of GSSM’s programs and disciplines and will serve students on the GSSM campus as well as across the state.  

The lab structure is being custom built to GSSM’s specifications by Farmbox Foods Incorporated in Colorado and is expected to arrive at the school’s Hartsville campus in July. 

The project drew early interest from GSSM alumni and corporate investors who responded with generous investments. At the ground-breaking ceremony, GSSM thanked its investors which included Brighton-Best International, the Byerly Foundation, the Charles W. Coker and Elizabeth H. Coker Foundation, HDR, Integrated Systems, Incorporated, and Nephron Pharmaceuticals. Representatives from these organizations, and the GSSM staff who designed the program, took part in the ceremony. 

GSSM President Danny Dorsel ’90 said that this project demonstrates the best innovative traditions of the school and noted that the idea for the research lab came from an unusual source. GSSM database administrator and security analyst Ryan Masters developed an interest in self-contained hydroponic technologies and discussed the idea with GSSM biologists Jennifer Brown and Cara Roberts who, working with research director Josh Witten, created a plan for a permanent lab that would engage biologists, chemists, and computer scientists, providing a platform for future research into a variety of topics. 

Dorsel is looking forward to the lab’s arrival this summer, “We are excited by the energy the Hydroponic Research Lab adds to our curriculum. This lab will bring together students and faculty across all of our programs, from our Residential program and STEM Foundations online diploma program, to Accelerate, our engineering partnership with high schools around the state. I’m also looking forward to bringing elementary and middle school students to the lab to get hands-on experience with the innovative technologies that will shape our future." 

The Hydroponic Lab was purchased by the GSSM Foundation, which will present the facility as a gift to the school. Foundation executive director Beth Dinndorf thanked the alumni and corporate investors who, “saw in the hydroponic research lab a great example of the extraordinary work GSSM does to educate and prepare tomorrow's STEM leaders. We are very grateful for their belief in GSSM and their support.” 

The lab will be installed adjacent to an outdoor classroom plaza to be constructed this summer and will be dedicated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony during GSSM’s Convocation on September 8, 2022. The public will be invited.


Pictured L-R: Beth Dinndorf (GSSM Foundation), Josh Witten (GSSM), Nikki Gillette (Brighton-Best), Briana Douglas (Byerly Foundation), Dick Puffer (Coker Foundation), Lee Tupper (HDR) , Conner Watkins (Nephron Pharmaceuticals), Danny Dorsel (GSSM), Cara Roberts (GSSM), Jennifer Brown (GSSM), Ryan Masters (GSSM), Bob Brown (Integrated Systems)