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Veggies in space!

TUCSON, AZ (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It’s a question people have asked for centuries, could there be there life on other planets? Future space exploration is likely to provide the answer, but in the meantime scientists are working to answer yet another important question. Once we get to other planets, what are we going to eat?

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For nearly a hundred years, Bill Tolmachoff’s family has been farming and growing vegetables like lettuce, okra, and tomatoes.

“It’s amazing," Bill Tolmachoff told Ivanhoe. "You plant it from a little seed and six months later, you’re harvesting a crop that’s beautiful."

But what if we wanted to grow food in places where the climate isn’t so friendly? At the University of Arizona, agricultural engineers developed a prototype 18-foot greenhouse. It’s designed to grow vegetables in space. Plant scientists developed a computerized system that uses water-cooled sodium vapor lamps instead of sunlight and mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil.

“It provides carbon dioxide, it provides water, it provides nutrients and it provides light,” Gene Giocomelli, Ph.D., a director of the Controlled Environment Agency Center at the University of Arizona, said.

Inspired by concepts from the U of A’s commercial hydroponic greenhouse, researchers say a collapsible module could be flown in on a spacecraft, deployed, and growing food even before explorers arrive.

“The water turns on, the lights turn on, the seeds that are already put in place begin to grow,” Dr. Giocomelli said.

It’s not science fiction, it’s science growing ideas for a future in space. University of Arizona scientists are already testing the lunar greenhouse concept not on the moon but at the South Pole. A greenhouse module deployed to the South Pole is up and running growing vegetables for researchers that are working in an area that is typically cut off from the outside world six to eight months a year.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Dr. Gene A. Giacomelli
Professor Agriculture and Biosystems
Engineering, and Director of the Controlled
Environment Agriculture Program (CEAC)
The University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721

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