Space: the hi-tech vegetable garden was born to grow on the Moon and at the Poles
14 July 2020 | Written by La redazione
It is set up inside a greenhouse capable of surviving at very low temperatures
Agriculture has accompanied man since the dawn of civilization. It is the symbol of how we understood the importance of the future, of how a seed planted today will give us a harvest tomorrow. It is no wonder that innovation is on the agenda in agriculture. They range from the concept of agriculture 4.0 to the development of new urban approaches. And now, also to the creation of vegetable gardens capable of surviving in the extreme conditions of space or poles.
A hi-tech garden to grow micro-vegetables on the moon and in extreme environments such as polar ones, set up inside a special igloo greenhouse designed to withstand very low temperatures. But also simulated space missions thanks to advanced immersive virtual reality techniques. The challenge of V-GELM (Virtual Greenhouse Experimental Lunar Module) is the experimental project that aims to develop a lunar cultivation module by combining innovative hydroponic cultivation techniques with virtual experiments to support the life of astronauts in future long-term missions period. The project will be carried out by a team of ENEA researchers and students from the Interdepartmental Center for Building Environment Restoration (CITERA) and from the Sapienza Universities of Rome and Tuscia.
V-GELM has been selected among the best projects conducted by university teams from all over the world as part of the IGLUNA 2020 mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Specifically, the project is divided into two phases: the first involved students and researchers, in collaboration with Mars Planet Society, in the architectural and functional design of the spaces simulated through immersive virtual reality techniques. In the second, Hort3 will enter the innovative garden of ENEA where the hydroponic cultivation of two particular varieties of radish, Daikon and Rioja, will be tested, inside a particular tent called “EGG” for its particular egg shape, created from the University of Milan.
“The virtual experiment allows you to return to the public a realistic interactive perspective suitable for simulating the environments, the operations to be performed and also carrying out ergonomic analyzes. In this way it is possible to identify any critical issues from the outset and reduce the costs of developing space modules and the training time of astronauts “, underlines Luca Nardi of the ENEA Biotechnology Laboratory.
The module developed by ENEA as part of the Hortspace project, funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), consists of a closed-cycle hydroponic multi-level cultivation system of 1 m3 with LED lighting where the different species of micro-vegetables are grown, specially selected to reach the ideal growth stage when consumed within 10-15 days.
“It is a soilless cultivation system with water recycling, without the use of pesticides and agrochemicals, able to guarantee the crew members engaged in space missions high quality fresh food and correct nutritional intake – explains Luca Nardi – without forgetting the psychological benefit given by the growth of plants in confined environments, such as those of future extraterrestrial bases or even in extreme environments, such as hot and cold deserts ”.