Growing Food in Space

Research and Development for growing food in space dates back to 1971 for the Salyut 1 where the Oasis 1, a Russian made grow unit was the first plant growth system on a manned spacecraft. There have been several iterations of devices ranging in size and scale, but the common consensus is that it is time and area consuming for typical garden inclusion on any manned space mission. There exists a need to produce an Automated Enclosed Garden System for various forms of food production, on earth as well as in space.

ISS Science for Everyone
Science Objectives for Everyone
Organisms grow differently in space, from single-celled bacteria to plants and humans. But future long-duration space missions will require crew members to grow their own food, so understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step toward that goal. Veg-03 uses the Veggie plant growth facility to cultivate a type of cabbage, which is harvested in orbit with samples returned to Earth for testing.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson harvested another crop of Tokyo bekana cabbage on the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson harvested another crop

The primary goal of the Veg-03 testing is to demonstrate plant growth in the Veggie hardware using ‘Tokyo Bekana’ cabbage as a test crop. Plants are grown in two different sizes of arcillite, a calcined clay media. This test helps investigators compare root zones of the two media sizes to determine water and root distribution in the different sized-particles to provide recommendations for future Veggie investigations. Shoot tissue samples also provide information on any growth anomalies when compared with ground controls. Photographs are used to assess plant growth rates and plant health. A data logger records the environment within the Veggie hardware. Crew questionnaires provide insight into the appropriateness and thoroughness of the crew procedures for Veggie hardware and plant growth operations.”

Machine used to grow food on the ISS
Machine used to grow food on the ISS

NASA's VEGGIE prototype
NASA’s VEGGIE prototype

Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist(Highlights: Week of May 29, 2017)

Vegetable Production System (Veggie)02.22.17

Veggie Will Expand Fresh Food Production on Space Station – April 10, 2014

Review and analysis of over 40 years of space plant growth systems