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MELiSSA delivers AstroPlant

We have an interest in plant biology in space here on the blog, so naturally we’re excited about MELiSSA’s AstroPlant desktop greenhouse. Normally we’re blogging about either space salad or else plant development in space. What you see below has wider horizons than that.

Cosmic Farming
Cosmic Farming. Image: ESA

The Acronym MELiSSA is for the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative. The goal is to understand how microrganisms, chemicals, catalysts, algae and plants interact to process waste and deliver unending supplies of oxygen, water and food. The key to this is going to be getting data, and this is why the MELiSSA team are developing AstroPlant.

AstroPlant is a plant lab fitted with sensors that track the entire growth cycle. Air and water temperature, humidity levels and leaf temperature, among other statistics, are uploaded via an app along with other user-collected data. The MELiSSA team then analyses the crop data for space farming potential. Get the kits out to citizen scientists, and you can access a large amount of calibrated data, relatively easily.

What interests me is that this is a system that can tackle many problems. For example the Association for Vertical Farming is taking an interest. Indoor farming doesn’t have all the challenges that microgravity farming does, but it can still benefit from this kind of lab that can track how plants react when you remove them from nature.

The end result will a plant system that can be used as part of a life-support system, so there’s not just a reliance on liquid oxygen.

If you’re interested in finding out more about AstroPlant, you can follow BorderLabs, the company developing the greenhouse for MELiSSA at @Border_Labs.

About the author

Alun Salt

When he's not the web developer for AoB Blog, Alun Salt researches something that could be mistaken for the archaeology of science. His current research is about whether there's such a thing as scientific heritage and if there is how would you recognise it?

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  • Nice you picked up this story! I am the coordinator behind this project, if you’re interested, please follow our Twitter account (indeed @Border_Labs) and we can take you along on this challenging but worthwhile mission!