Image by NASA

RESEARCH

Fundamental understanding of soil and crop science is critical to improve technologies to combat the accelerating depletion of soil and nutrient resources using open-field techniques, its environmental impact including pollution of water, the worsening effects of climate change, and food insecurity in areas with increasing populations. According to the United Nations, soil-based food production will be severely constrained by 2050 at the current rate of land use. Generating 3 cm of topsoil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue, much of the world’s arable topsoil could be gone within 60 years. Even without this problem, human populations are concentrating in urban areas where lack of land for agriculture makes food security a big problem. Shipping food from outside urban areas is cost prohibitive, especially in economically depressed urban areas. These urban areas also tend to be along coasts that are being impacted by sea-level rise associated with climate change. Climate change is also affecting rural areas and the small farms that provide much of the local food. Additionally, field agriculture produces environmental pollution due to erosion and runoff of silt into waterways, the silt being laden with nitrogen and phosphorus (contributing to eutrophication and harmful algal bloom), herbicides and pesticides. This research seeks methodology to enhance soil health and will contribute to the political, economic, and social stability of nations by enabling food security. All of these same problems extend with humans out into space. The exploration of space promises great rewards, but also poses great challenges in food security. The limits in the shipping of food and agricultural resources from Earth and in developing natural resources space require that we develop efficient systems of food production in space.

Satellite

LOW-EARTH ORBIT

Research and Development

SOIL HEALTH IN SPACE

Determination of Gravitational Effects on Soil Stability for Controlled Environment Agriculture

Partially funded by Deep Space Ecology and performed by our CSO, Morgan Irons as part of her PhD thesis at Cornell University, this experiment is examining the effects of spaceflight on the soil aggregates formed by fungi and bacteria. Recent studies have shown a connection between biological activity, aggregation formation, and the overall capacity of soils to sustainably produce nutritious food crops. A better understanding of fungal and bacterial structures and functions in soil could improve food production on Earth and in space.

For more information, read the experiment description at the NASA website.

FAARM LAB

Functional Astro-Agronomic Research Modular Lab

The FAARM Lab integrates design choices intended to replicate an Earth-like environment in microgravity, one with: a downward gravitational force, a water cycle, oxygen and carbon-dioxide control, and a soil substrate. This design requires minimal human intervention and employs an independent water system that disallows water loss during crop harvesting.  It also provides plant spacing for simultaneously sprouting of plants while the current season grows to maturity.

LEO DEPLOYMENT

TO BE ANNOUNCED

System Requirements:

  • Sensor network that is highly mobile and highly adaptable

  • Low cost of maintenance due to self-monitoring and self-return from field – no wires, no permanent fixtures

  • Low-capital, constant increase in performance and platform capability

Lunar Craters

MOON

Research and Development

LUNAR FOOD SYSTEM

TO BE ANNOUNCED

Solutions must take into account an environment with no Earth-day cycle, extreme temperatures, no atmosphere, and high radiation.

Mars_DSE.jpg

MARS

Research and Development

MARS EPOCH X1

First Generation Concept for a Mars Quasi-Closed Agro-Ecological System

MARS EPOCH X2

Second Generation Concept for a Mars Quasi-Closed Agro-Ecological System

MARS EPOCH X3

Third Generation Concept for a Mars Quasi-Closed Agro-Ecological System

©2020 by Deep Space Ecology, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Mars Epoch X2 Building Block