Space travel and farming aren’t necessarily two topics that you’d expect to see together, but thanks to NASA, research and agricultural developments are happening above us – 230 miles to be precise. It might not be too bold to suggest that agricultural recruitment might one day include roles that involve space expeditions.
With space travel continuing to be at the forefront of modern science, researchers are turning their attention to how space stations can open up a new frontier of farming. It’s not a new phenomenon either: governments and private companies around the world have already been researching the possibility of growing produce on a space station, with the results suggesting it might not be that long before it is a common reality.
This advanced move is made possible by NASA’s Vegetable Production System (Veggie), which is a deployable unit that is able to produce salad-type crops for space crews. Thanks to Veggie’s lighting and nutrient-delivery technology, astronauts are able to access fresh food, which in turn solves the age-old problem of the high costs of eating. Veggie uses the cabin’s environment to access temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide for growth.
Research so far has been heavily focused on making space exploration more habitable for humans, and Veggie’s role in this is huge. The main aim of developing Veggie’s use is to maximise crop growth for the average stay of space travellers (around six months) with a regenerative growth system. Plants that need less processing such as leafy greens are the best candidates for growing in space, with more heavy-duty vegetables proving to be more financially challenging at this stage.
A Nutritious Future
Clearly, the implications of this research could mean revolutionary changes in the way farming and agricultural activities happen across the globe, and it’s not only the physical growth of crops in space. Satellites also play a role in modern farming by allowing precision control of food production, which gives farmers more scope to produce more for less. The technology can also identify areas of weaker growth in large areas of farmland, facilitating better care of soil.
In the UK alone, £8.2bn has been pumped into the economy since 2009 thanks to space industries, while food production continues to be one of the largest sectors. It also adds a whole new aspect to agricultural recruitment and the executive search for candidates. As more research is carried out by NASA and other companies, the likelihood of agriculture recruitment requiring candidates with a scientific background grows. It’s an exciting time for agri-science, with the possibilities being potentially life-altering – or at least life-sustaining.