Growing Veggies in Space & the Best LEDS for the Job

May 2016
Growing veggies in space is tougher than you think. A vegetable growing system started testing on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014.
The Vegetable Growing System known as Veggie
The first flower grown in space was grown this year seen in a photo posted on twitter by astronaut Scott Kelly (see below).

Different types of LED lighting have different effects on plants and experiments using red and blue LED lights showed subtle changes in light quality can potentially increase antioxidant properties of crops such as lettuce 1. Choosing the correct lighting could therefore impact the nutritional quality of vegetable grown to feed astronauts in the future.

LEDs durability and long life make them suited for space missions where resupply of things from earth is limited 1, but here is also efficiency to consider. A new study from Philips Lighting and The University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) have found using a customised "light recipe" optimised for growing plants improved operational efficiency and an increased amount of edible lettuce 2. The Philips LED modules had a lower heat load, more uniform light distribution (resulting in better, more uniform plant quality and more predictable yield), and also ha no requirement for an additional cooling water distribution 2. 54g/kWh of lettuce were grown under this system versus 24g/kWh grown using a high pressure sodium system, an energy saving of 56% 2.

This interesting research on LEDs for plant growth in closed environments is just one piece of the puzzle leading to the ultimate goal of developing a closed-loop biogenerative technologies that are self sustaining.