Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

Growing plants and vegetables in orbit

Growing plants in space, whether in orbital stations or future lunar and Martian settlements, is aimed at producing fresh food to support a stable human presence in extraterrestrial environments. This is the objective of Space V, an innovative startup based in Genoa and Turin. It's a spin-off of the Department of Mechanical, Energy, Festive, and Transport Engineering (DIME) of the Genoa School of Engineering. Space V was created to leverage its capabilities and expertise in the emerging space economy market, particularly focusing on research for the production of fresh plant food in space.

Led by Franco Malerba, the first Italian astronaut in history and an engineer, and a former manager of Thales Alenia Space, Space V has recently secured pre-seed financing from the Galaxia fund. This fund is the national technology transfer hub dedicated to developing new businesses in the space sector, aerospace, established by CDP Venture Capital in partnership with Obloo.

What Space V Does
Space V operates in an interdisciplinary field where biology and robotics collaborate to create innovative solutions. Its goal is to design and develop equipment suitable for growing plants in space, opening new perspectives for agronomic research essential for the future of space exploration. In the short term, Space V aims to develop and test an adaptive greenhouse in Earth orbit, on the International Space Station, or even on commercial space stations planned for the near future.

Founded in 2021, Space V was selected as one of the first Italian startups hosted at the ESA Bic (Business Incubation Center) in 2022. This center was opened by the European Space Agency inside the I3P Incubator of the Polytechnic of Turin. This partnership provided Space V with access to the technological ecosystem of the Piedmont region, a global hub for space technologies, recognized for the presence of Thales Alenia Space and a supply chain of SMEs dedicated to space. In 2023, Space V closed a pre-seed financing round with CDP Venture Capital through the Galaxia fund. The startup is currently working on a subsequent round of financing involving venture capital funds.

Space V's Adaptive Greenhouse
The innovation of Space V lies in its adaptive mechanism that adjusts the volume available for each plant according to its growth level. This mechanism ensures complete utilization of the available space, unlike greenhouses with fixed shelves where some volumes remain unused. Through careful planning of sowing, harvesting, and plant selection, Space V reduces energy and water consumption to the minimum required. The adaptive greenhouse can be equipped with a separate micro-conditioning system for each cultivation level, enabling simultaneous growth of different types of plants at optimal temperatures and humidity levels, while also reducing energy consumption. Space V's innovation in plant cultivation in space could also contribute to the sustainability of food on Earth by enabling vegetable cultivation within housing solutions in isolated or challenging environments, thus mitigating land consumption and water waste.

"We're well aware of the limitations of astronauts' food on past and present missions," explained Malerba. "Food has always been supplied from the ground, dehydrated to prolong its shelf life, lacking essential fresh vitamins crucial for astronauts' well-being. It's a menu that isn't particularly suitable, even for potential space tourists. For future missions, including inhabited stations on the Moon, which we anticipate seeing as early as the 2020s, and subsequent trips to Mars, it no longer makes sense to transport all the food from Earth. Instead, we should focus on bringing seeds and gradually cultivating the most beneficial plants for astronauts' nutrition in specialized space greenhouses."

The founder concluded, "Space V's contribution lies in the concept of an adaptive multi-story greenhouse, tailored for space conditions. It promises high yields, versatility in cultivating various plant species simultaneously, modest energy consumption, and as much autonomy and intelligence as possible. Our goal is to develop a technological greenhouse capable of conducting 'space agriculture' optimally, despite the inherently complex and challenging space environment."


Publication date: