The future is already here, thanks to Barack Obama’s inspiring speech and ESA research that sent people in space for long-duration missions.
We’re talking about tomatoes, sweet peppers and other vegetables that might be a game changer in the future. The Dutch company Groen Agro Control was inspired by Obama’s speech on human missions to space and the idea of sending manned missions to Mars. They first investigated ways to grow and fertilize plants in space. But it didn’t end there!
Improving the Growth of Vegetables Here, On Earth
“In space, you can fertilize plants only with the minerals you take with you, but you still want them to produce the best possible crops,” said the company’s Lex de Boer.
And by using the water that evaporates from the plants, as drinking water with a minimum need of purification, that meant “you have to apply doses of each mineral extremely carefully so that as little as possible ends up unused in the drain water.”
According to their studies and experiments, they were able to see how tomatoes and pepper plant received 16 types of minerals and how it helped them grow.
In 2013, after the company exchanged ideas at the Space-MATCH event, they learned how to better fertilize plants on Earth. They also learned how to grow plants in a ‘closed’ support system that recycles all supplies – like the organic waste, carbon dioxide, water, and food.
ESA’s Christel Paille stated that, for long-period space missions, “one key issue is food and water supplies. Astronauts will need to grow their own food with limited resources, and reclaim as much water as possible from that growth cycle. Hence it’s vital that we develop a scheme that tells them exactly the right amount of fertilizer to apply at every stage in the plant growth.”
Applying the Know-hows to Our Horticulture
Seeing that the experiments for successfully growing and fertilizing vegetables in closed environments, the company decided to develop the same scheme for plant growth here, on Earth. With conditions being different than those in space, the company kept on working with different schemes for growers to compensate excess humidity, levels of minerals and so on.
The results ended with a positive outcome:
Ted Zwinkels, co-owner of Zwingrow said that “even though we started using it after the start of the season last year, the plants grew better and were healthier. I’d estimate that overall production increased by around 5%.”