Space Farming

Grow fresh food for astronauts and tourists thanks to farming in space. Farming in space, space farming.

Last updated: 2020-05-30

Status

Lots of experiments performed and planned and small quantities tasted. Large-scale production methods have not been built and demonstrated. Advanced Plant Habitat onboard ISS. Lettuce grown on the ISS is as nutritious as Earth harvests.

Applications

  • Fresh food for long term space missions.
  • Psychological effect from surrounding plants and greenery.
  • Microgravity enhanced genetic plant engineering for Earth.
  • Year-round self-contained crop growing systems for Earth.
  • More efficient food growing food on Earth.

Why & Solution

Space gardening will be essential someday if space travelers are to go beyond low-Earth orbit or make more than a quick trip to the moon. They can’t carry on all the food they need, and the rations they do bring will lose nutrients. So astronauts will need a replenishable stash, with extra vitamins. They’ll also require ways to make more oxygen, recycle waste, and help them not miss home so much. Space gardens can, theoretically, help accomplish all of that.2

In order to improve astronauts’ well being on long-duration missions such as on a Moon base or on a mission to Mars, food plays an essential key role. Besides a source for nutrition, fresh food evokes through all the senses of smell, touch and taste memories of general happiness and home.1

The movement of heat, water vapor, CO2 and O2 between plant surfaces and their environment is also affected by gravity. In microgravity, these processes may also be affected by reduced mass transport and thicker boundary layers around plant organs caused by the absence of buoyancy dependent convective transport. Future space farmers will have to adapt their practices to accommodate microgravity, high and low extremes in ambient temperatures, reduced atmospheric pressures, atmospheres containing high volatile organic carbon contents, and elevated to super-elevated CO2 concentrations. Farming in space must also be carried out within power-, volume-, and mass-limited life support systems and must share resources with manned crews.3

Veggie and other systems aboard the space station are helping researchers figure out how radiation and lack of gravity affect plants, how much water is Goldilocks-good, and how to deal with deplorables like mold. Just as important, scientists are learning how much work astronauts have to put in, how much work they want to put in, and how plants nourish their brains as well as their bodies.2

Microgravity enhanced genetic plant engineering. In the low gravity environment of space, the transfer of genetic information from one kind of plant to another is enhanced due to lack of gravity induced buoyancy and convection effects.5

In 2020, NASA Selected Five Research Projects Designed to Improve Crop Habitats
In support of NASA’s goals for human exploration and sustained presence on the Moon and beyond, new spaceflight-based agriculture systems are needed to provide astronauts nutrition through freshly grown crop plants. NASA selected five teams of investigators to develop an improved water/nutrient delivery system and automated plant-spacing approaches for growing multiple generations of crop plants in spaceflight. 
Through a combination of space biology science and engineering, the selected projects will develop, test and verify new concepts for water and nutrient delivery sub-systems. Scientists will also study and test approaches for automatically changing the spacing between the growing plants to enable research in very confined spacecraft environments. These are two key elements for developing plant habitats that are compatible with the microgravity condition of spaceflight and limited available space for crop plant production in spacecraft and lunar surface human habitats. 
The following projects were selected for award:

  1. Design, monitoring and management approaches for the root-zone in microgravity.
  2. Microgravity crop production: Meeting the challenges of water/nutrient delivery, volume management, and providing diet diversity for the International Space Station.
  3. Evaluation of the porous tube and on-demand water and nutrient delivery systems for food production in microgravity.
  4. Staticaponics: Targeted electrostatic deposition of water and nutrients on plant roots.
  5. Variable plant spacing with astro garden nutrient delivery and recovery.

EneMiSInFood (Energy-efficient, Microwave-assisted Sterilisation of In- Space Food) is one of the winners of Space Exploration Masters and it is a microbiological safety solution for food produced in space. It uses a highly energy-efficient and compact technology to deactivate and destroy microorganisms that could degrade the quality, taste, and edibility of this biomass. The EneMiSInFood system could be used by astronauts in orbit for the microbiological deactivation of both food and food waste, as well as for microwave cooking in a future implementation. The most important value offered by the system is the compact, energy-efficient deactivation and destruction of microorganisms on space-grown food, which can enable storage without active refrigeration. The technology could also be transferred to energy-poor households/cases.

Companies


Autonomous food and oxygen supply at a lunar base.

Our adventurous bioreactor consists of the integration of all the parameters for algae growth and harvesting into a single control unit. Alginity will present a system that provides food while producing oxygen for astronauts.
The extreme demands of space will provide a great starting point for a new kind of bioreactor that can be used (following optimisation) for the pigment market, where the demand for high-value elements is currently undersupplied.






Aleph Farms' aim is to produce non-genetically modified food, which means using natural processes to grow meat to mimic the way it would develop in a cow.

Cells were taken from cows. Next, the small-scale muscle-tissue was placed under zero-gravity conditions and assembled in a 3D bioprinter. The technique could be used to feed astronauts in the space station in the future.
"In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 litres of water available to produce 1kg of beef," said Mr Toubia. “We are proving that cultivated meat can be produced anytime, anywhere, in any condition.”
Together with research partner at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, Aleph Farms has successfully cultivated the world’s first slaughter-free ribeye steak, using three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting technology and natural building blocks of meat — real cow cells, without genetic engineering and immortalization. With this proprietary technology developed just two short years after we unveiled the world’s first cultivated thin-cut steak in 2018 which did not utilize 3D bioprinting, we now have the ability to produce any type of steak and plan to expand our portfolio of quality meat products.
Unlike 3D printing technology, our 3D bioprinting technology is the printing of actual living cells that are then incubated to grow, differentiate, and interact, in order to acquire the texture and qualities of a real steak. 
Aleph Farms experiment was selected to be part of ‘Rakia’ Mission to space, led by the Ramon Foundation and the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology. One of 44 experiments to be chosen, it will be launched to the International Space Station as part of Axiom Space Ax-1 Mission, pending NASA and Axiom approval, together with the second Israeli in space, Eytan Stibbe, at the beginning of 2022. This will be Aleph Farms’ second trip to space, following a successful ISS experiment in 2019. In this new experiment we will focus on tackling the challenge of cultivating the cells in microgravity. Aleph’s space program, Aleph Zero, builds upon our mission to produce quality meat locally, even in the most remote places on Earth with minimal natural resources. When people live on the Moon or Mars, Aleph Farms will be there as well.




Earthly Solution Risk

Grown in space and consumed in space to save on launched mass and many other benefits.

References

  1. Bake In Space Source

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  2. Sarah Scoles, Popular Science, NASA is learning the best way to grow food in space. Accessed 2018-11-27. Source

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  3. Monje O et al. Farming in space: environmental and biophysical concerns. Adv Space Res. 2003;31(1):151-67. Source

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  4. Zero G Kitchen - A Platform for Food Development in Space. Source

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  5. Howard G. Levine. The Influence of Microgravity on Plants, 2010. Source

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