How do you feed the planet? The answer comes from space

GreenCube is based on closed cycle hydroponics and is equipped with specific lighting, temperature and humidity systems to meet the restrictive requirements of spatial environments. GreenCube is able to guarantee a complete growth cycle of delicate vegetables (cress, in this case) selected among the most suitable to withstand harsh conditions and high productivity.

In the ENEA Casaccia cytogenomic laboratory, researchers analyze plants after testing growth in cubes. In the photo: the base and the plant in the hands of the researcher

“Scientific research is focusing more and more on developing biogenerative systems to support life in extreme environments where outdoor cultivation is largely impossible. Plants have a key role in micro-nutrition, which was developed to integrate the diet of astronauts in space. Solutions that are then applied are then applied It was conceived to provide fresh food for astronauts also in everyday farming, as in the future it may have to be integrated with local production systems.”

GreenCube is the first space park experiment, launched in July with the first flight of a new VEGA-C carrier by the European Space Agency (ESA) from Kourou (French Guiana) along with the “LARES2” science satellite and five other nano-satellites.

The small garden, with dimensions of 30 x 10 x 10 cm, was designed by an all-Italian scientific team created thanks to a cooperation agreement between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and La Sapienza University of Rome which also witnesses participation from ENEA and Federico II University of Naples.

“Soilless micro-farming systems like the GreenCube can play a major role in meeting the nutritional needs of the crew, reducing operating times and avoiding pollution thanks to the automated control of environmental conditions. The GreenCube is also equipped in a compact and limited environment with a high-tech sensor system for remote monitoring of environmental condition parameters. growth, health and transfer all acquired data to the Earth independently.The farming system enables increased efficiency in terms of scale and consumption of energy, air, water, and nutrients.During the mission, experiments on crops in soil will also be conducted in a satellite replica to check the effects of radiation and low pressure. and microgravity on plants.

The GREENCube satellite, cylindrical in shape and measuring 10 x 10 x 30 cm, is made of aluminum. Photovoltaic panels are placed along the walls to feed the management system and sensors.

“The data we receive is very interesting to understand how intensive farming can be improved and made more accurate by rationalizing the consumption of energy, fertilizer, water, etc. We can even grow the necessary vegetables at home, practically on demand, so based on our nutritional requirements according to the criteria of weight, height, etc. That, but also based on specific genetic characteristics.”

“With outdoor farming becoming increasingly difficult due to climate change, urban farming or local farming may help to incorporate intensive farming. Just think that it would also be possible to grow produce in the toughest regions of the planet (deserts, highlands, arctic regions). Regardless As for future applications, our research focuses a lot on technological innovation applied to modern agriculture. Solutions against food waste and in service to the production sector are born out of experiences like this one as it is estimated that over the next few years, we will have to feed a planet of 10 billion people.”

for further information:
Luca Nardi
ENEA
Biotechnology Laboratories
luca.nardi@enea.it

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