EDEN ISS: How to cultivate vegetables in space

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EDEN ISS: How to cultivate vegetables in space

Published on
January 3, 2017

Within the EU project EDEN ISS, the business unit Greenhouse Horticulture of Wageningen University & Research has the task of selecting the right crops to grow in small volumes on the International Space Station (ISS).

The plant selection procedure has already taken place, a selection that was based on the human well-being, as well as the efficient use of light and space. From the end of 2017 we will simulate a ‘space mission’ at the Neumayer III Antarctic station where a small group of scientists will live and work for one year. The crew will eat fresh vegetables, grown in the ‘mobile test laboratory’ by a space engineer trained for this by experts of Greenhouse Horticulture of Wageningen University & Research.

Experimental phase in mobile test laboratory

Experiments are presently being performed with different crops and cultivars to determine an optimal cultivation recipe. Thus, the conditions of the mobile test laboratory are being simulated in climate chambers in Wageningen. Experiments are presently being carried out under LED with a sunlight spectrum including far red at different light intensities and temperatures.

How quickly can you harvest?

When cultivating these crops, it is especially important to note how quickly plants, such as mini cucumber, tomato, radish, herbs and ready-to-eat leafy vegetables, can be harvested after germination, and how much of each crop can be harvested on a daily basis for several days or weeks. Only then will we know the amount of fresh vegetables that can harvested and become available for ‘Antarticanauts’ and later astronauts, on a daily basis.