NASA announced today that Aeroponics International (formerly EnviroGen, Inc.) of Berthoud, CO is the recipient of a 1998 SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant for space related research. NASA received 2,226 applications for the SBIR grants, granting a total of $24M to 335 firms nationwide. Aeroponics International will use the NASA funds to conduct research on a High Performance, Gravity Insensitive, Enclosed Aeroponic System for Food Production in Space.
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in air without soil or media. Richard Stoner, inventor, founder and CEO of Aeroponic International developed and patented a method and apparatus for Aeroponic crop production in 1985. Stoner’s Aeroponic apparatus supports the growth of seeds and small plants and promotes rapid growth development in an enclosed air/moisture rich environment. The company's Aeroponic technology does not rely on vast quantities of water, which differentiates it from food growth methods like hydroponics. Aeroponicly grown plants spend 99.9% of their time growing in air. The plants receive the necessary moisture and nutrients from a computer controlled misting apparatus.
According to Stoner, the company will utilize the SBIR grant to develop a unique hydro-atomizer to deliver the Aeroponic mist inside a lightweight Aeroponic apparatus. The Aeroponic system could be used to produce the various food crops that NASA intends to grow in space. Aeroponics International's Aeroponic technology is being used here on earth as well. There are over 1,500 installations of the company's Aeroponic system around the world, used primarily by commercial greenhouse growers for horticultural flower and plant production.
The company will utilize the research services of BioServe Space Technologies, a NASA sponsored Commercial Space Center located at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, to assist its efforts in developing its Aeroponics technology for space. BioServe has flown space payload experiments on 17 shuttle missions and two four- month Mir missions during the past ten years.
The Aeroponics International/BioServe team recently completed studies aboard the Mir Space Station which ended when astronaut David Wolfe returned back to earth aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, on January 31st, bringing back with him Aeroponics International's Organic Disease Control (ODC) experiments. Aeroponics International's ODC experiments on adzuki beans were the first experiments of their kind to be conducted on food crops in low-gravity. BioServe researcher Mike Sportiello says that preliminary analysis of the experiments shows good growth of the space flown adzuki seedlings. In addition, seeds and seedlings treated with ODC appear to have exhibited more robust growth and disease resistance than those without the ODC treatment. Further biochemical analysis, to be performed by Dr. Jim Linden at Colorado State University, will shed more light on the effect of the ODC treatment on the growth and disease resistance of the adzuki beans grown on Mir. Sportiello went on to say that an environmentally benign method such as Aeroponics International's ODC system could be a valuable advancement both for growing food crops on an ever more populated earth and for producing food in non-terrestrial environments as humans continue to explore the cosmos beyond earth. Aeroponics International's patented ODC technology combined with the company's patented Aeroponic technology may help astronauts grow food crops in a highly efficient and environmentally benign manner.
BioServe researcher Jim Clawson stated that BioServe has conducted a number of plant experiments in micro gravity aboard numerous space shuttle missions. "With our latest payload, the Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, we have been very successful in providing a controlled environment of light, temperature, atmosphere, humidity, and nutrients for plant development. Aeroponics International's Aeroponic technology offers some potential performance advantages over currently developed space flight nutrient delivery systems. The results of this research may increase the efficiency of food production systems that would be needed to support long term space flight missions including the International Space Station, back to the Moon, or perhaps even Mars." BioServe’s Sportiello commented, "We are encouraged by this NASA SBIR grant because it will help our team develop Aeroponics International's Aeroponic process, which may help the space program utilize lightweight materials and conserve precious levels of water and nutrients in the course of producing higher yields of healthy food plants."
Stoner stated, "We have a lot of work ahead of us with the SBIR grant, but
the potential for this technology is tremendous. The grant will help us optimize
the performance and reduce the overall cost of producing the Aeroponic systems,
thus making their widespread use more viable for food crop production on earth.
The world's populations may well double in the next century and we cannot rely
on traditional methods of agriculture to meet the world's demands." Sportiello
heartily agrees, and believes Aeroponic technology, combined with the advancements
in the ODC system made possible by continued research such as that conducted
aboard the Mir Space Station, may help usher in a whole new era of food production
for mankind here on earth and in space.
For more information contact:
Richard Stoner, CEO, Aeroponics International (970) 532-3554
Mike Sportiello, Researcher, BioServe, University of Colorado
Dr. Jim Linden, Professor, Microbiology and Chemical Engineering, Colorado State University (970) 491-6122
Denver Post - Business News: Colorado Firm Tests on the Mir
Space seeds blast off
Pre-flight CSU test results on legumes
Press Release: NASA: Aeroponics International on Russian Mir Space Station in 1997
ODC Treatment crop comparison
Space Technology Food Production Reference Page
Use natural biocontrol products visit www.aeroponics.com