Resource and Production Model for the South Pole Food Growth Chamber 2008-01-2011
NASA scientists have previously researched biomass production units for the purpose of bioregenerative life support systems (BLSS). The University of Arizona, Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (UA-CEAC) in cooperation with Sadler Machine Company (SMC) designed, constructed and assisted real-time operations of the South Pole Food Growth Chamber (SPFGC). The SPFGC is a semi-automated, hydroponic, multiple salad crop production chamber located within the U.S. National Science Foundation New Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Fresh vegetables are grown for the Station crew during the annual eight-month period of isolation in one of the most extreme and remote environments on Earth. An empirical mathematical model was developed from data monitored onsite and remotely by Internet and telecommunications during the winter of 2006. The SPFGC model was based on a mass balance, whereby all carbon dioxide and water were monitored within the system and biomass generated by the crops was recorded. Edible production yields within the 21.90 m2 SPFGC Plant Production Room averaged 2.8 kg day-1 (± 1.0 kg day-1) with 12 kW of installed high intensity discharge lighting and a 17-hour photoperiod. Other operational resources were monitored including labor, energy, and plant nutrients. The data generated from the remote and isolated location of the SPFGC includes information for future BLSS applications.