Tucson's 2022 summer temperatures peaked at 111 degrees on June 16, but the scorching heat didn't faze Charles Collins' backyard vegetable garden. That's because it was only 77 degrees inside the hydroponic garden, thanks to an underground water reservoir and a solar-powered chiller and pump. Collins, an astronomer by trade, has spent years developing and perfecting hydroponic and aquaponic gardening systems.

Collins and his work are gaining recognition in Tucson and beyond. A 2021 YouTube video about his work has racked up 7.8 million views and earned the attention of NASA. It also led to Collins connecting with representatives from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But despite an already busy schedule, Collins always finds the time to pass along tips and educate gardeners in Tucson through his nonprofit, Together We Grow, a robust YouTube channel and frequent posts in the popular Tucson Backyard Gardening group on Facebook.

Collins' research may have originated in Tucson, but it has garnered worldwide recognition. In June 2021, he announced a partnership with the WHO in the development and implementation of real-world applications to combat hunger, enhance health, and deal with water shortages.

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