5 things to know in #MiamiTech: Makers for the final frontier, co-living, Chinese intrigue and more

1 To the moon, Alice! Fairchild Tropical Garden launches maker contest
Calling all innovators: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden launched its Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest, aiming to leverage the ingenuity of minds across the nation to reinvent the systems used to grow edible plants on the International Space Station and beyond.
“We are calling on makers, professionals, college and high school teams across America to collaborate with us and submit their designs for gardening systems to be used aboard spacecraft,” said Dr. Carl Lewis, director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. “The Maker Contest is a unique opportunity for everyone to get involved on the ground floor and help meet the challenges of growing food in long distance space travel.”
Fairchild and  Moonlighter Miami, which is collaborating with Fairchild, announced the contest at the Nation of Makers conference last week. The contest is open to professional, college and high school teams, and makerspaces, incubators and organizations in education, the creative industries, technology, engineering, agriculture and other related sectors are encouraged to participate.
As NASA looks toward a long-term human presence beyond Earth orbit, they face specific science, technology, engineering, and mathematics challenges related to food production in space. Through the Maker Contest, Fairchild’s goal is to harness the creativity and talent throughout a national network of makerspaces, and its local community, to address those challenges, which include (1) how to efficiently use three-dimensional plant growing space aboard spacecraft, (2) how to maintain plants without human intervention, and (3) how to design a fully automated robotic planting and harvesting system.
Contest entries will be judged by NASA engineers and botanists, and winning proposals will be considered for implementation on future NASA missions. Winners in in each category – professional, college and high school — will receive a stipend to attend the 2020 Nation of Makers annual conference, among other prizes. To apply for the Maker Contest, visit Instructables. Designs must be submitted by February 3, 2020.
Fairchild’s Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio in Miami, being developed in collaboration with Moonlighter Miami, will be the world’s first makerspace in a botanic garden, supported by grants from NASA and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
2 Co-working wave is bringing more co-living ashore
The London-based developer of the world’s largest co-living community is expanding to Miami, the Miami Herald reported.
The Collective, founded in 2010, will be opening its fifth U.S. location at 2825 NW Second Avenue. It already has three locations in New York City and one in Chicago. In total, 8,000 co-living units are operating or under development in the U.S., United Kingdom and continental Europe. Its buildings in London feature communal kitchens and eateries, cinemas, work areas and game rooms.
The 325,000 square-foot, $210 million development where the Collective will be housed will include co-living spaces, galleries, restaurants and art studios and is scheduled to break ground in 18 to 24 months. Read more in the Miami Herald here.
The Collective of course is not the first co-living startup to find a lot to like in the millennial-rich Miami market.
New York-based Common announced last summer that it would be expanding into Miami, launching first in Little Havana. Common, which has more than 20 locations in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC, plans two buildings with 65 living units to start in Miami. The furnished private bedrooms share living rooms and kitchens and other amenities.
Common CEO and founder signaled his interest in the Miami market during his keynote talk at LAB Ventures Future of Real Estate Summit in the spring of 2018. MyRentHero, one of the portfolio companies of LAB Ventures, the venture building arm of The LAB Miami, is exploring the co-living concept for housing for college students.
Roam, geared more to travelers and digital nomads, was the first to put down roots in Miami, opening in the historic River Inn in 2016. WeWork is also opening some WeLive co-living centers, but none in South Florida so far. Several luxury developers in South Florida are getting in on the act, advertising their micro-unit projects as co-living.  
Co-living in part grew out of the explosive popularity of co-working, and if there is one thing Miami entrepreneurs already have in abundance: co-working spaces. Every week there is another announcement.
Chicago-based Novel Coworking announced this week it will be putting in a co-working space in a four-story building it purchased at 2125 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, the South Florida Business Journal reported. Memberships at the center, featuring a wifi-enabled courtyard lounge, will start at $129 per month for desks and $575 for private offices. It is also opening one in Orlando.
3 Pass the popcorn: this lawsuit could get interesting
Magic Leap  has sued nReal, a Chinese startup founded by a former Magic Leap engineer, Xu Chi. nReal, a spatial computing competitor of Magic Leap’s, recently announced that its nReal Light glasses, priced at $499 for the consumer version,  will hit the market in early 2020. Xu worked at Magic Leap’s Sunnyvale, California offices for a little over a year before leaving in 2016 to found nReal. Surprise, surprise, Magic Leap says nReal’s design looks a lot like prototypes Xu saw when he was at Magic Leap. The glasses use an external power pack like Magic Leap One, too.
4 Funding news keeps coming
On the late-stage front: Cendyn, a Boca Raton-based provider of hotel CRM and hotel sales platforms for the hospitality industry, received a strategic follow-on investment from Accel-KKR. The amount of the deal was not disclosed. The company, with offices in Atlanta, Boston, San Diego, Europe, Australia and Asia and clients in 143 countries, intends to use the funds for further scale its business. As part of the transaction, CEO and founder Charles Deyo will move to the role of investor and board member and Tim Sullivan becomes president.
 On the startup front: HealthSnap, a Miami health-tech startup headed by Yendy Truong, told the South Florida Business Journal that it has recently raised $3 million, bringing the early-stage company’s total funding to $3.5 million. The University of Miami is a shareholder in the platform, which makes insights based on health and wellness data on lifestyle style devices on 40,000+ patients.
5 Did you know? How Florida ranks for solar tech
Solar installations are soaring, finally.  According to the latest numbers, 860 MWs were installed in Florida during Q1, compared to California’s 538 MW – the first time since 2012 that any state has exceeded California on a quarterly basis. In 2017 and 2018, Florida’s solar market was less than a third the size of California’s. In the latest quarter, the state has now installed in one quarter more than it did in all of either year. Read the report here.
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at [email protected] 

Nancy Dahlberg