Growing Beyond Gravity: The Dawn of Space Agriculture

Fancy a salad grown in space? Unearth the possibilities and the science behind space farming.

Growing Beyond Gravity: The Dawn of Space Agriculture
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As humanity ventures further and further into space, growing food away from home might become the most pressing issue. And it goes beyond sustainable food sources. There is also the component of psychological well-being. Humans can survive for a limited time without plants around them, but what about those claims that people are happier, more creative and more productive when surrounded by nature?

Out of these needs combined came the field of Space Farming. As the name suggests, space farming is the practice of growing plants and producing food in space. But what’s involved? What challenges do we face? And what benefits will we bring home from all this progress?

Current State of Space Farming

Growing plants in space is, as you might expect, an ambitious challenge. And having to deal with microgravity doesn’t make things any easier. NASA’s Veggie system, for example, employs LED lighting with specific spectrums to provide plants with the light necessary to grow.

You may wonder why they aren’t using direct sunlight. One of the obvious reasons, would be that the intense direct sunlight would melt the plants back into their atoms. The other reason, is that space stations happen to be in the lower Earth orbit. Here they experience 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. The average plant, is not used to this kind of lifecycle. So, NASA figured LED lights might help to keep the plants from unionizing, and taking over the space station in open rebellion.

Another technique developed for space farming, is aeroponics. This method involves growing plants without soil by misting the roots with nutrient-rich water. It’s counterpart would be hydroponics, which involve growing plants in nutrient-rich water solutions.

Both of these solve the problem created by operating in microgravity. Microgravity prevents the roots from anchoring and thereby preventing nutrient absorbtion. Thus using conventional farming techniques, might not work as expected. Also space radiation adds one more layer of complexity to all that. Space radiation might mutate the plants in ways not entirely explored yet. Perhaps it was the mutated broccoli that ate those astronauts? We may never know...

But on top of these challenges, we would also have to consider that plants need essential nutrients, like phosphorus or nitrogen. And space stations don’t have all that much storage space for them. And even if there is enough storage space, we would need to think about how all this would develop, once we start farming colonies on Mars.

Engineers being engineers, you can imagine, that the process of growing plants has been streamlined. The process is called Bioregenerative Life Support System. It integrates plants, microbes, and physical-chemical processes to create a closed-loop system. This holistic system recycles its own waste to regenerate air, water and and food in a self-sustaining ecosystem.

The Future of Space Farming

In the future, we may develop entire wheel space stations dedicated to agriculture. Here advanced technology and infrastructure would support plant growth in a controlled environment. One possible design is the rotating wheel space station that can simulate day/night cycles and provide consistent lighting on different sides of the station. It would allow for optimal plant growth and crop yields.

Beyond just growing crops in space, these stations could act as central hubs of food production. Mankind could supply its colonies on the moon, on Mars and other space stations from one singular area. If developed further, it could act as a central marketplace of trading both terrestrial and extraterrestrial crops.

To do this, humankind would need to focus on developing more advanced technologies and systems, where automation will play a crucial role. Automation can assist in various tasks such as construction, planting, harvesting, and maintenance. Robotic arms and AI-powered systems could perform laborious tasks with precision and efficiency. Thus reducing the need for human intervention.

Moreover, genetic engineering would be a vital new development. By modifying plant species to be more resilient to the harsh conditions of space, we can enhance their ability to thrive in low gravity, high radiation, and limited resources. They would ensure a sustainable food supply chain for astronauts and future space colonies.

It’s important to note that space farming is about more than just growing food. It is also about creating a self-sustaining ecosystem, and integration with other ecosystems. The inclusion of livestock can provide a holistic approach by helping to balance it out. Thus enabling a higher diversity of food sources.

Implications of Space Farming

Leveraging multiple gravitational environments would open up opportunities to develop new plant-life that would be impossible on Earth. Certain crops would grow easier on Mars than on Earth. This could then lead to the discovery of new, and yet unkown medicinal properties of existing plants.

But the most significant impact would be the ability to establish permanent settlements in space and on Mars. This would further support plans to mine the asteroid belts for rare earths, which in turn would result in the creation of a new environment of unprecedented abundance for all of mankind. And to go even further, it would trivilize population growth as a problem. It would allow humanity to spread out and reduce the impact of population growth on the planet.

The new opportunities, for the urbanisation of Mars, would create a new boom for the global economy. The result would be the alleviation of many of the world’s current debt problems. Further it would be the first step in creating a resilient humanity, in case of a global cataclysm.

With the safety of humanity guaranteed, humans would then be free to redirect their technological development towards growth and quality rather than efficiency.

Failure to Advance Space Farming

It is obvious that the excessive focus on the efficiency of industrial farming has begun to cause more harm than good. Some wonder whether industrial farming giants poison the food supply to pad their pockets.

The lockdowns have made some people weary about food shortages. Would they be able to feed themselves and their loved ones? What good is money, when there is no food to buy? And faced with this existential threat, that high-paying job does not seem so interesting anymore.

Many have begun to grow their own food. Gardening is wonderful, but it is also very hard work. Lawyers, engineers and doctors would not choose this past-time activity over others, if all went well.

This mistrust is in part justified, as some big producer have been caught in more than one corruption court case. It is imperative that these matters be addressed, and that public trust is improved. People need to be reassured about the quality of the food they consume, if space farming is to have any future at all. With public trust shaken, the very companies that would have the means to engage in space farming, would soon find themselves without customers. And entire state governments may find themselves undermined in their authority, due to their inability to secure food for the masses. This is making future space programs impossible.


Modern economics has brought humanity to where it is today. We need a different way forward, a return to simplicity. Future space settlements must start here. If not, Earth will soon be isolated from its colonies. And while Earth rots in corruption, like the Roman Empire, space colonies will flourish in a newfound parallel economy.

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