NASA recently awarded $1.12 million to the University of Arizona and four other investigative teams to develop an improved water and nutrient delivery system for growing crops in microgravity conditions that is compatible with the limited available space in lunar surface habitats and spacecraft.
Led by Murat Kacira, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center and professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering, the UArizona team brings together several researchers behind the university's Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse and Bioregenerative Life Support Systems efforts. These include SIE professor Roberto Furfaro, director of the College of Engineering's Space Systems Engineering Laboratory, and Phil Sadler, a botanist and innovator responsible for the overall design and fabrication of the Lunar/Mars Greenhouse modules.
"Building on our history with bioregenerative life support systems, we have assembled an incredible interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers," said Kacira. "The technology we're developing not only supports the future in space exploration but can be used to improve food production right here on Earth."
Other team members include Kitt Farrell-Poe, head of the Department of Biosystems Engineering and an expert in biological processes, water quality and water treatment systems; Minkyu Kim, a biomedical engineer specializing in artificial protein design and synthesis, polymer physics and soft materials; Barry Pryor, a professor in the School of Plant Sciences who specializes in plant health management, plant pathology and mycology; John Adams, the deputy director of Biosphere 2 and an expert in wildlife, fisheries and biology; and Neal Barto, a horticultural engineer who will support sensor development, instrumentation and system monitoring.