Astro-farmers are the key to a long-term future off-planet. Hydroponic farming is a method of growing plants without soil, using nutrient-rich water solutions to deliver essential minerals directly to the roots
European scientists have drawn up an ingenious plan to grow food on the Moon, and make humans a multi-planetary species.
Scientists have tabled a plan to use a mechanical sorting area to give the hydroponic garden all the nutrients it needs to thriveCredit: European Space Agency
They’ve already managed to grow beans using lunar soil as the main source of nutrients.
Analysis of lunar samples returned to Earth in the past show that the soil on the Moon – also known as regolith – has most of the essential minerals for plant growth.
All except one.
Regolith lacks nitrogen. Lunar soil also compacts when watered, which can suffocate and stunt root growth and plant germination.
But scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) have a clever trick to grow plants outside lunar soil.
It’s called hydroponic farming.
Hydroponic systems grow plants directly in nutrient-rich water, instead of soil.
But scientists and mining experts at Norway’s Geotechnical Institute are still working on ‘putting lunar soil to work’ in a bid to truly live off the land.
They have tabled a plan to use a mechanical sorting area to give the hydroponic garden all the nutrients it needs to thrive.
This involves pulling all the right nutrients from Moon dirt and pumping them into the garden’s water, in a set-up very similar to what’s pictured above.
“This work is essential for future long-term lunar exploration,” ESA materials and processes engineer, Malgorzata Holynska, explained.
“The current study represents a proof of principle using available lunar regolith simulants, opening the way to more detailed research in the future.”