Jan 10, 17 / Aqu 10, 01 20:35 UTC

Space Agriculture  


This is a great place to start a thread about what technologies we should develop to be able to grow our own food and medicine in space.

Hydroponics, aquaponics, Marsian land; plants, animals, fungi; automated, robotic... you get the point.

Welcome everyone!

Jan 11, 17 / Aqu 11, 01 07:18 UTC


I think this is a very important topic to discuss. If we could master agriculture in space, we could produce food and even oxigen in an efficient way.

  Last edited by:  Jens Voorpyl (Asgardian)  on Jan 11, 17 / Aqu 11, 01 20:22 UTC, Total number of edits: 2 times

Jan 11, 17 / Aqu 11, 01 07:34 UTC

Here's a post I made on another thread that is relevant to this topic.

Aquaponics is a possible solution to this issue. For those that aren't familiar with this, it is a nice closed loop system where fish and plants are grown in the same system. The water / waste from the fish tanks are circulated in through a hydroponic system that provides nutrients to grow plants. The waste free water is then circulated back into the fish tank and around and around it goes.

Aquaponics systems can be productive in a small footprint, without the need for soil and with a fraction of the water compared to conventional agriculture. As a nice little bonus, a sustainable aquaponics system is a net producer of oxygen.

Fresh fish, fruits and vegetables - I could think of worse diets :)

Jan 12, 17 / Aqu 12, 01 12:08 UTC

Sounds like that could be a good solution to food in space indeed! :)

Jan 12, 17 / Aqu 12, 01 18:01 UTC

Indeed, aquaponics is a great concept, used too little here on earth, but maybe perfect for the isolation of space, in terms of waste management and oxygen production. Having said that, some concerns must be answered (and it will be great to hear of previous work answering them): viability of fish in zero gravity; source of fish feed; plant and piping system seal for zero gravity; and more can be suggested.

Thanks for the fruitful discussion!

Jan 12, 17 / Aqu 12, 01 23:42 UTC

Liqiuds and zero / micro gravity is not a good mix, even if it is contained in tanks and pipes. It messes up the fluid dynamics which would (as a minimum) require additional pumps and one way valves.

There have been other discussions about the challenges posed by zero g and the consensus seems to be that any station will require artificial / simulated gravity for numerous reasons. This would add another to the list.

Jan 13, 17 / Aqu 13, 01 02:17 UTC

Hmmm.. Do you think it is possible to use a sponge like root media to distribute the liquid by capillary force? (to enable zero gravity cultivation)

Jan 13, 17 / Aqu 13, 01 05:38 UTC

Centrafugal force... Simulate gravity artificially...

Ideally, farming itself should take place in mulitple seperate installations. Then you can cover a lot more surface area easier, diversify and do everything. Just in the belt between the Earth and the moon the amount of sunlight that doesn't hit either should in theory be enough to grow not only enough for for us, and Earth, but also for energy farms.... Should the "global warming" trend continue then we can arrange farms in a staggered grid array to form a parasol, reducing solar input and thusly controlling the trend. In my loose roadmap, then farms go up first - we need to feed our population, can't be lifting 12tonnes of food every six hours... As this is happening producing food we have "no need for" we can sell this to Earth for funding other ventures. By the time we are able to do this, food will be a valuable comodity, it makes sense to establish the supply chains before we send the population up, anyway.

Lent the effects of gravity, pretty much any application that's currently expected can still apply. Including fish. The actual form factor for these is muchly undecided and indeed a topic of debate but I was leaning to a giant toroid - so a ringworld basically. This can easily spin and provide a good range of surface area, built right. A seperate shade system can independantly move to simulate night for the required time... As the centre of such a thing wouldn't rightly lend independant objects centrafugal force a spire in the middle connected by a few arms can be static using fluid bearings to distribute the load and reduce vibrations. This gives a low-G environment that could be suitable for loading/unloading easily, and things/people can get winched "up/down" - or more accurately, in/out. pretty much all the technologies required to make that happen exist - some need refinement, admittedly, but they exist. Hydroponics and three dimensional stacking can lead to high yeilds.

Where the larger amount of issues will arise is not the things like the equipment, but things like the insect balance. Tuning the ecosystem. A lot can be automated, but I'd lean towards building these a little large and having a small community upon, tending to it's needs - and thusly it tends to theirs. They would be a critical component to this ecosystem. The key is getting the balance right, and keeping them maintaining it.

Jan 13, 17 / Aqu 13, 01 11:00 UTC

i'd like to help you in this proyect, i'm working from 12 years with plants

Jan 14, 17 / Aqu 14, 01 20:04 UTC

I agree with the aquaponics idea posed for its little footprint and production of oxygen. I feel however that apart from the gravity situation a major factor for space agriculture with these and other kinds of aquaponic systems is the incredible diligence that is needed in maintaining the microbial ecology of such a system.

Jan 15, 17 / Aqu 15, 01 06:54 UTC

plants have been grown in space, i read these a while back and refound them, however a self regulating system would be essential, and with some trial and error we could effectivl sustaine ourselves in the micor/zero gravity, however more reaserch would need to be conducter, would be nice if nasa would release more of thier notes. from 2014- https://www.nasa.gov/content/veggie-plant-growth-system-activated-on-international-space-station from 2010- https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/10-074.html

Jan 15, 17 / Aqu 15, 01 13:22 UTC

Will we get enough resources out of it though? I think we wouldn't get a lot of fish and fruits.. I'm of course no expert, but would we be able balance it in a way we will get enough so it is profitable? Is this even a problem at all?

Jan 16, 17 / Aqu 16, 01 14:51 UTC

Any food production system doesn't have to be profitable, just sustainable. Somehow I don't think "space tomatoes" will be a big export for future Asgardia.

I've seen literature that suggests that an established and well managed aquaponics system occupying an area of 14m x 5m can supply 4 adults with fish, fruit and vegetables year round. From my experience in operating a small hydroponics system, this seems close to the mark.

There are probably oxygen generation stats somewhere to assist in calculating CO2 removal and O2 addition. However, this is beyond my expertise.

Jan 17, 17 / Aqu 17, 01 09:17 UTC

It doesn't have to be profitable, that's just unavoidable. You've clearly not read documents like the UN roadmap to food security through to 2050 - which by my estimate just so happens to be when we could of obtained resources to sensible consider such ventures - or any similar such newer, by independant parties of interest.

To ignore the initial novelty factor of having "space food" the primary driving "marketing" ethos being the steadily spiraling populations of the Earth combined with the requirement to be building on the arable farming space required to feed said populations in order for residential and industrial support infrastructure, combined with "climate change" there will be a market for food, no matter where it's come from. Even our meager (in comparison) population will have significant expansion over but a few generations - not accounting for immigration.

Enough sunlight falls between the Earth and the moon - and hits neither - to realistically farm not only for our civilisation for a significant portion of it's expansion but also that of the entire Earth. Fish, fruit, and vegetables are all well and good, but basically we can do anything. Any environment tailored to suit. It's not a question of if we can do it, it's how can we get it done. To account for our population as it is now, as I compose this: 154344 (and counting) then it'd require 2701020m²(2701.03Km², or 10.45mi² or 27 hectare, or 66.718 acres) of aquaponics. I sense this figure doesn't take into account supporting infrastructutre. As well as assuming they would not breed it would also assume they are only interested in eating fish, fruit, vegetables or the rest of their lives. Realistically, such systems may indeed have their role, but the significant bulk would make sense to take place externally. Earth really isn't an option, by this stage they will struggle feeding themselves.

To sensibly consider for long term mass residential space habitation it would be prominent to establish supply chains "up there" first. As effectively we will be producing a lot of food we don't really need, at this stage, this can be sold to Earth for a little while in order to fund other initiatives. This capacity can be expanded as our manufacturing capacity expands, creating the possibility of creating mass habitation station. To realistically consider the construction of such structures it would first prequisite obtaining resources that are not sourced from Earth, the fighting of gravity prohibitively expensive at this time. That needs keeping to a minimal, and a torus a ½mile maybe a mile across isn't "minimal" (or, that's what I'd do.. per installation. "Small", easy to manage, and can be layed down in multiple over time to increase capacity. Internal surface area would be sufficient for several processes per installation. Rotation can simulate gravity with centrafugal force). By using materials obtained "from space" then it's possible to drastically reduce setup costs, if that's done right, they could be free and fast flowing from asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter by 2050...

Jan 17, 17 / Aqu 17, 01 12:31 UTC


I think we are in violent agreement. Aquaponics is an efficient means of producing fish, fruit and vegetables, but it is not the only space agriculture option.

There is a possibility to inregrate small scale systems in residences and open space areas (which could also assist with atmospheric processing), but for the sake of food security, the primary source of production should be from dedicated large scale facilities by people who know what they are doing.

The only thing I think we may differ is in the trade aspects. There will always be some rich idiot willing to pay $1,000 for a "space tomato", but after establishment, that trade door will have to be closed so that Asgardians are catered for as a priority.

I'll still advocate for hollowed out asteriods for this purpose - particularly those that already contain frozen water.