By Peter Ling and Mary Wicks
Growing crops in a completely controlled environment would appear to address many of the challenges farmers face from variability in temperature and rainfall to infestations of insects and weeds. However, replicating the “bioregenerative support system” that is Earth, is not easy. As engineers and scientists work to create such a system that would allow for long-term space travel or living, they are developing technologies that are being used to increase crop production at home.
What is needed for a bioregenerative support system?
This artificial ecosystem needs to provide everything required by humans to sustain life. Plants are the crucial component. They produce the oxygen we breathe, assimilate the carbon dioxide we exhale, transpire the water that can be collected for drinking and other uses, and process wastewater and absorb nutrients through their rootzone. Finally, as a result of all these functions, plants produce the food and fiber we need.