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Hi-tech garden for growing veg on Moon and at Poles

Hi-tech garden for growing veg on Moon and at Poles
© Miami Scientific Italian Community (MIAMSIC)

 

V-GELM is a hi-tech vegetable garden designed by the ENEA research team to grow micro-greens on the Moon and in extreme environments such as at the North and South Poles. It is set up inside a special igloo greenhouse designed to withstand very low temperatures as well as space missions.

V-GELM (Virtual Greenhouse Experimental Lunar Module) is an experimental project that ran from 10th to 19th July in the Casaccia Research Centre with the aim of developing a lunar cultivation module combining innovative hydroponic cultivation techniques with virtual experiments to support astronauts’ lives in future long-term missions. The project was carried out by a team of ENEA researchers and students from the Interdepartmental Centre for Building Restoration Environment (CITERA) and the Sapienza University of Rome and Tuscia and was live streamed. 

The innovative ENEA vegetable garden contains hydroponic cultivation of two particular varieties of radish, Daikon and Rioja, inside a tent called EGG due to its shape. The module was developed by ENEA as part of the Hortspace project, funded by the Space Agency Italiana (ASI). It consists of a 1 m3 closed-loop multilevel hydroponic cultivation system with LED lighting where different species of micro-green vegetables are grown, specially selected to reach the ideal growth stage for consumption within 10-15 days.

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Italy leads the way in microcosm cultivation

Italy’s national agency for technological innovation (ENEA) has devised a way to set up a hi-tech micro-plot in your house. This represents the first microcosm for indoor and extreme-environment cultivation of root and aerial plants (fruit-bearing trees, lettuce, basil, tomatoes, potatoes). Replicating the growth patterns and the same production of beneficial properties and biomass that occurs in nature, the system makes it possible to grow plants in environments that would usually be unsuitable for plant growth such as airports and extreme environments such as the Poles and desert areas, or even in space!

Developed in collaboration with private entrepreneur Gruppo FOS, the system differs from greenhouses and traditional growth chambers in terms of its architecture and network of sensors for monitoring environmental control, plant growth and reproduction. It features double independent chambers – one a subterranean chamber for growing the root system and rhizosphere, and the other an above-ground chamber for growing the plants’ aerial parts and phyllosphere. The patented product could enable research labs to develop prototypes for studying plant physiology, pathology and parasites and promote plant cultivation in unconventional environments.