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Tech Farming – Laying the Foundation for Farming in Space

(Touch the Soil News # 125)

Recently the Farm Journal, the nation’s largest agricultural magazine, covered a story on the future of raising food in space. German high school students are examining how high-quality vegetables respond to growing in the micro-gravity of space. The student crops will be grown in the International Space Station.

The project the students are working on is focused on how vegetables respond to growing in the micro-gravity of space. On Earth, gravity naturally pulls roots down into the soil for water and nutrients.

Interesting is that the student project is being sponsored (financed) by the world’s largest chemical company – BASF. Headquartered in Germany, BASF stands for Baden Aniline and Soda Factory. BASF has operations in 80 countries with 390 production sites in Europe. BASF has customers in 200 countries and 113,000 employees. One must ask, why is the largest chemical company in the world interested in space food?

Next to figuring out how plants react to minimal gravity and soils is in lighting. A new study from Purdue University found the optimal blend of LED lighting to grow food in space. Research from Professor of Horticulture Cary Mitchell found leaf lettuce grew best under a 95-to-5 ration of red and blue LED lighting. This could lead to innovative vertical farming methods in space – and back on Earth.

While the Earth is plagued with human-made problems, sometimes you need to leave home for a while to really appreciate what is here. Increased appreciation of Earth’s soils, water and ecosystems that underpin health might be a key to a more balanced and prosperous civilization.

Uploaded here is an interesting video from the European Space Agency and its take on growing food in space.

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