"We inflate the growing dome upon installation and we refill water every 6 months. The shape of the bubble helps optimize the airflow and climate," explains Barbara Belvisi of Interstellar Lab, a company that develops environment-controlled pods for crop cultivation on Earth and beyond.
As Barbara explains, the company has designed BioPods specifically for use on Earth and space, although the exact design differs depending on the location. Interstellar Lab designs the BioPod from start to design, from the dome-shaped structure down to the aeroponic system and water purification.
"The inflatable design allows us to optimize resources and use less power. We have several patents on the membrane, water purification, and aeroponic system in our pod," says Barbara.
Targeting high-value crops only
While Interstellar Labs has not yet sent a growing dome to Mars, the company is already selling its BioPod to cosmetic companies looking to grow high-value crops requiring a very specific climate, such as vanilla, roses, tagetes, and ashwagandha. Through precise environmental control and the development of recipes, Interstellar Lab helps growers target specific molecules. Interstellar Lab has also been experimenting with fruiting crops such as raspberries and lemons.
Interstellar Lab sells the physical system for $250,000 and provides the software for $2,000 per month and R&D services for $3,000 per month. The company is focusing its development efforts on improving the energy efficiency BioPod, although the unit already uses 50% less energy than traditional indoor farms, according to the company.
"It's a sustainable business model for us because everything is done in-house, so we control the cost of the production of the BioPod. We really are a hardware manufacturing company first – the services and plant research are a bonus," says Barbara.
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