Experiment with Automatic Growing and Harvest Systems 2000-01-2505
An autonomous plant growing system will be needed for optimal food production in space. Integrated food production (FP), air revitalization (AR) and water purification (WP) systems will offer major advantages over physical chemical systems for life support functions. Seeds and small plants, however, contribute little to AR and WP, as the amount of photosynthetically active biomass is much smaller than in fully-grown plants. From the time of seed germination, photosynthesis gradually increases and is terminated at harvest time. Under present technology, successive crops are grown to average out the supply and demand of available resources, with the resultant amount of energy expended for lighting and environmental controls remaining constant, regardless of plant size. The Automatic Growing and Harvest System (AGHS) has been developed to overcome these problems. AGHS can maintain the optimal bioregeneration level through perpetual growth (without replanting), which can be translated as an optimal level of FP, AR, and WP. This method can presently be applied to the production of selected vegetables; achieving tremendous increases in efficiency while drastically reducing labor requirements, energy consumption, weight, and mass. If an indeterminant growth (vining) characteristic can be added to other crops by hybridization or DNA transfer, the selection of vegetables that can be produced in this system can be broadened. Furthermore, this method offers a biological control of gas exchange and decreases physical chemical system requirements.