Vertical Farming: Beyond our Atmosphere 

Vertical Farming: Beyond our Atmosphere 

Have you ever imagined growing salad in space?!  

Our ever-growing civilisation and change in climate on Earth require innovations now, to power the generations of the future. With an ignorance of how far our food resources can stretch, we risk threats down the line. Understanding that the requirements of conventional agriculture are becoming more and more straining to achieve, the alternative possibilities are looking to be exponentially beneficial. 

Having identified this factor ahead of the dangerous unfolding of this risk to food supply, organisations have been active in contributing new techniques – especially focusing on Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), or Vertical Farming. With abilities to expand within a soil-less environment, the growth of crops can be secured on Earth. As we look to gain a further range of opportunities for humanity, situating ourselves on alternative planets such as Mars is being accounted for. 

Have we ever grown in space? 

Yes!  

Currently, astronauts are cultivating a variety of greens in two small greenhouse units called Veggie, located 250 miles above Earth, within the International Space Station. Here, inhabitants gain a crop of foods which grow with minimal land use, water consumption, or energy requirements. Having an environment controlled through artificial means such as lighting and heat, the conditions of a spacecraft are being utilised to take plants and agriculture, beyond Earth. 

Is there further we can go? 

Many projects are now striving for success in creating vertical farms that can thrive in space. Understanding the necessary systems, water circulation, and regulation for plant growth has led to this initiative. The UK Space Agency has granted up to £75,000 to fund such a project, which will test and advance life-changing technology for future-proofing our resources. 

However, this is not the only purpose for our plant production in space. 

Moon-To-Mars 

As we strive to extend human spaceflight to Mars, a crucial question arises: "How can we sustain a team of astronauts with enough food for an extended period?" 

With a longer travel time to reach the planet, the factor of the mental well-being of astronauts must be accounted for. Consuming pre-packaged food on a regular basis not only poses a risk of shortage but also causes dissatisfaction due to a lack of variety in their diet. 

By incorporating Vertical Farms into spacecrafts, astronauts on long-haul missions could have access to healthier, higher-quality meals; ensuring teams sent to space can thrive during trips to Mars and beyond. Additionally, the presence of oxygen-producing plants would improve the overall environment for the journey. 

Next steps for Vertical Farming in space 

Vertical Farming innovations in space are continuing to evolve. With conversations concerning human missions to Mars, as well as the possibility of populating the planet, becoming more frequent, theories about expanding Vertical Farming within the outer atmosphere are likely to be tested in the coming years.  

It's an exciting turn for the future of our Earth and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), installing the process as a more recognisable means of growing plants within our general population. 

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