Every era in agriculture has something that defines it. Something that causes us to push our boundaries and take that next step to feed a growing population. This era is not the first, and it will not be the last. Earlier this week, I had the chance to think about agriculture going where it never went before. That place is outer space.
If you think I am just going to sit here and make thinly veiled references to Star Trek, you would be mistaken. This is a serious topic. We are starting to make plans to have humans venture further out into space than we had previously planned. While there are talks about returning to the moon, our vision is firmly set on stepping foot on the soil of our neighbor, Mars. That is what raises age-old questions.
It is the same questions that were asked when explorers came here from Europe. The same question the Indigenous peoples had to answer when they first came together in communities. It is the necessities of life. We need air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. Those three things even rate higher than shelter. Not by much, depending on the climate, but they are still the top three.
There is work being done to answer the question that every eventual space teenager will ask their space parents on every space colony, “what’s for supper?
Nick Dyner is the CEO of Moleaer Incorporated. They have been working for the past years on something called “nanobubbles.” The technology is already being used for several applications here on Earth, including agriculture. Nanobubbles have the capability to deliver oxygen to plant roots, which then increases their nutrient uptake and overall health. Dyner tells about the program and its applications.
The oxygen-filled bubbles can be used in agricultural applications by injecting them into an irrigation system. Dyner explains how this is a benefit.
So, you may be asking how this pertains to outer space. The answer is actually simpler than you think. In minimized or even zero-gravity, water drainage for plants is nearly impossible. This means over-saturation and “drowning” of the plants. As Dyner said before, a roots access to oxygen is essential. By introducing oxygen-filled bubbles with the water, it displaces some of the water, aids in drainage, and gives the plants access to the vital oxygen.
Moleaer partnered with Utah State University, who was tasked by NASA with developing crop irrigation practices to grow fresh crops in outer space. Dyner said they have been involved with the project since April 2019 and have already seen some good results in testing. They are seeing similar results to what they have achieved already here on Earth.
These first steps into successful agriculture outside the surly bonds of Earth are exciting. Soon, we will be having to decide who has to walk the space beans and pick the space rock.
To learn more about Moleaer Inc, and the work they are doing, you can log on to their website.