Director: Cody Sheehy | Producer: Cody Sheehy
Focus Years: 2014 | Country: United States
As a people, we want to explore beyond Earth's orbit, but a looming food crisis and dwindling resources at home make this a distant dream for many people. The United Nations estimates that we will need 70% more food by 2050. To meet this challenge, we will need agriculture technology that uses resources extremely efficiently. Currently, NASAâ€™s development of bio regenerative life support, or using plants to recycling air and water, is the best example of this type of technology.
At the University of Arizona, scientists have developed a working prototype greenhouse that is also automated and can be controlled remotely. Furthermore, they have built and continue to study the South Pole Growth Chamber for the NSF Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station which is the best analogy for the hostile environments of the Moon or Mars. The prototype greenhouse is a completely closed system that recycles the atmosphere, water, and waste produced by astronauts while at the same time producing half of the food they need. An innovative solar collection and fiber-optic cable system to deliver light and power inside the greenhouse is also being examined.
Although space exploration is the driver to develop the technology, the concept has also generated interest from Middle-Eastern countries that experienced food shocks in the 2008 food crisis. The cities in this region are in many ways similar to a moon outpost's in that they currently import everything and are extremely limited in available resources like water and soil for agriculture.
Places like China, with polluted air, contaminated water, and food insecurity may someday also realize the benefit of integrating bio regenerative technology into buildings to alleviate this confluence of problems with a single elegant solution. It may be that exploring further and living on another planet is not a luxury after all, but instead a crucial step in how humans change the paradigm we are currently caught in on Earth.
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