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Vegetable Production System in CELSS

#2137


Development and Evaluation of a Continuous Vegetable Production System as a Сomponent of the Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS)

Tech Area / Field

  • AGR-FOD/Food & Nutrition/Agriculture

Status
8 Project completed

Registration date
27.03.2001

Completion date
06.10.2005

Senior Project Manager
Zalouzhny A A

Leading Institute
Russian Academy of Sciences / Institute of Biomedical Problems, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • NIIIT (Pulse Techniques), Russia, Moscow

Collaborators

  • NASA / John F. Kennedy Space Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA, FL, Brevard County\nUniversity of Colorado, USA, CO, Boulder

Project summary

One of the real problems now concerning global ecology and technology is the ability to create a regenerative life support system based on biological processes or a biological life support system. This is primarily designed for isolated groups of people in extreme environments. These systems are necessary when creating an adequate habitat with facilities that are remote for long term duration both on Earth (polar bases, northern regions, meteorological stations, etc.) and in extra-terrestrial environments, for example in manned space stations or on planetary bases. In order to organize the recycling of matter in these systems, one must determine the metabolic pathways between photoautotrophic organisms, which can synthesize organic components from inorganic elements, through either the use of solar energy or artificial irradiance, and heterotrophic organisms, in particular humans, which would utilize substances synthesized by autotrophs. Studies of various Biological Life Support System (BLSS) models have shown that the basic functional part of the phototrophic link is accomplished with the help of higher plants. This initiated a task to develop the technology and equipment for long-term continuous cultivation of higher plants in an artificial environment, which could be a component of the BLSS. To add more to the complexity, this technology will be associated with a space BLSS and, therefore, has to operate in the absence of gravity. For the past several years the IMBP has designed and developed methods for optimizing the productivity of crop plants relative to specific designs of integrated systems. It has been shown that the planting surface, with a technologically advanced light system that provides unique and different spatial characteristics, can provide crops in which plant stems can extend a certain distance from each other as they grow. These crop types are generally termed auto-extending, since the growth of these plants and the distance between them allows the light to penetrate and provides more light to an otherwise leaf-shady environment. Using theoretical equations for photosynthetic productivity at the same light energy level, plants on a domed surface would provide better extending, utilizing more light and providing a significantly higher amount of productivity. Therefore, a smaller volume and savings on energy consumption of these curvilinear plant growth systems, makes them a more efficient system to build than traditional examples. This is the reason why IMBP accepted the construction and integration of a spherical and a cylindrical plant growth system that reflects the proposal. Experience with this type of hardware has lead to 7 author copyrights and two patents. An experimental conveyer-type plant growth system was built at IMBP called “Phytocycle”, which has a cylindrical planting surface.

The purpose of the project is to develop and test new technology concerning continuous cultivation of plant systems in plant growth chambers (PGC) for earth and space BLSS applications.


Tasks:

- Determine the design parameters for curved planting surfaces for optimal cultivation of various vegetable crops at a specific level of productivity.
- Design root modules and planting facilities for various crops, for both earth and space
application.
- Develop a root nutrient delivery system (including systems for watering and aeration in the root zone and the use of fibrous ion exchange artificial substrates) for earth and space applications.
- Develop adequate methods to supply nutrients to plant roots and provide applicable
theoretical models regarding the dynamics of gas and water distribution in capillary-porous substrates in the root zone both on Earth and in microgravity (during pulse accelerations from 10-1 to 10-5gs.)
- Design and create a plant research complex based on a cylindrical conveyor-type facility,
proposed by IMBP, and the application of high intensity LED’s as the light source.

- Experimentally determine efficiency levels of light and water regimes for plant growth
systems and watering regimes for plants in microgravity conditions.
In the quest for optimally designed systems for cultivating plants it is author's plan to develop theoretical models, concerning photosynthetic productivity from plants on curved planting surfaces, and to determine and identify optimal parameters.
Methods
For the past several years the IMBP has designed and developed methods for optimizing the productivity of crop plants relative to specific designs of integrated systems. It has been shown that the planting surface, with a technologically advanced light system that provides unique and different spatial characteristics, can provide crops in which plant stems can extend a certain distance from each other as they grow. These crop types are generally termed auto-extending, since the growth of these plants and the distance between them allows the light to penetrate and provides more light to an otherwise leaf-shady environment. Using theoretical equations for photosynthetic productivity at the same light energy level, plants on a domed surface would provide better extending, utilizing more light and providing a significantly higher amount of productivity. Therefore, a smaller volume and savings on energy consumption of these curvilinear plant growth systems, makes them a more efficient system to build than traditional examples. This is the reason why IMBP adopted the construction and integration of a spherical and a cylindrical plant growth system that reflects the proposal. Experience with this type of hardware has lead to 7 author copyrights and two patents. An experimental conveyer-type plant growth system was built at IMBP called “Phytocycle”, which has a cylindrical planting surface.

Expected Results


New technology will be developed and tested for growing plants in artificial conditions. The basis of IMBP’s proposal is the integration of a domed cylindrical planting surface using a fibrous ion exchange artificial substrate in association with microporous tubes, which were studied at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, with the addition of high intensity irradiance from LEDs. The development of this technology allows for the creation of a plant growth chamber with the advantage, over other well-known analogs, that it will provide higher specific productivity per unit of utilized resource. In particular, it is assumed that the following productivity indicators will be determined in the production of edible plant biomass:

· Per unit volume of the chamber, kg/ (m3 day)---------------------1.0
· Per unit of energy consumption, kg/ (kW-hr)---------------------0.05
· Unit of energy per unit of area, kg/ (kW-hr m2)------------------0.09
· Ratio between light area and volume of the chamber, m3/m2--- 0.3

The above characteristics are significantly more efficient than traditional plant growth chambers. These results will allow authors to determine parameters of vegetable crops for the BLSS.

Personnel Qualifications


Researchers from two institutes will participate in this project:

1. Institute of Biomedical Problems (IMBP), RAS-leading organization;

2. Pulse Technology Science Research Institute (NIIIT) Minatom of Russian Federation.
Scientists from IMBP, participants of this project, are considered to be leading researchers in Russia, with similar levels of expertise as researchers from the USA, and elsewhere in the world, in bioregenerative life support systems and development of plant growth technology in artificial environments.
NIIIT researchers have significant experience in the development of complex experimental systems in military technology. This qualifies them to be able to successfully design and fabricate complex interfaces in an experimental system, including a domed planting surface with a reversing slow rotational mechanism, and development of an automatic control and regulatory system for this project. In addition, the NIIIT researchers have a significant technological advantage in the area of development and application of high intensity light emitting diodes (LED), which will be necessary for the creation of the light source for plants. NIIIT researchers are comprised of theoretical and experimental physicists, who will apply their experience in examining the effects of dose radiation on crops, and modeling effects of radiation for various space missions (orbiting flights and Mars missions). In addition, they will calculate theoretical models of gas and water distribution dynamics in capillary-porous substrates in the development of a plant nutrient delivery system for both Earth and microgravity conditions.
The amount of work that will be required of the NIIIT researchers on category 1 will amount to 63% of the total project task, which satisfies ISTC requirements relative to researchers with a previous involvement in military technology. An additional approach is to introduce foreign organizations to the new Russian concepts in plant growth technology and artificial environments.
Foreign Collaborators
Collaborators from NASA, Dynamac Corporation and Bioserve Space Technologies, also both NASA contractors, have many years of experience in plant experiments in microgravity. They are actively developing various BLSS in the U.S.A, including the development of plant growth facilities for plant cultivation during space flight. This has been demonstrated through many of their publications. In particular, the U.S. collaborators have developed a root nutrient delivery system using porous tubes [13], which can be successfully applied in this project together with the Russian fabricated systems.
Applied Significance
The project results will provide a higher coefficient of plant biomass production, which will be determined for both Earth-based remote habitats, and on the ISS and other manned vehicles, destined for space missions. Utilizing the above systems will considerably enhance nutrition for humans in remote habitats, will a have a positive influence on the psychophysiological condition and will provide partial regeneration of air and water in living habitats with plants. On the whole, this will enhance the quality of the environment for crews in remote habitat systems, which are still hampered with serious regenerative associated problems.


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