BOX FARM LABS AIMS TO ENABLE FUTURE MARTIAN MISSIONS. OUR LIFE SUPPORT TECHNOLOGIES ASSIST ASTRONAUTS ON THEIR INTERPLANETARY ENDEAVOURS BY PROVIDING EDIBLE CROP PRODUCE  DURING SPACE-FLIGHT TRANSIT AND  EXTENDED DURATION SURFACE EXPLORATORY MISSIONS.
 
1957

Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, becomes first animal in space

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1961

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first human in space, completing one orbit around Earth aboard Vostok 1

1973

First plants grown in space in a modified Saturn V rocket dubbed "Skylab" in a joint experiment between NASA and students. 

1982

Arabodopsis Thaliana becomes first plant to complete lifecycle in space aboard Salyut 7

1990

Installation of "Svet", a 4 - part plant growth system in the Kristall module aboard the Mir spacecraft. 

1997

Mir once again plays a key role in advancing plant studies in space, this time playing home to NASA experimentation on azuki beans, proving the viability of aeroponics in space. 

2014

NASA's "Veggie" system is a breakthrough, astronauts successfully grow "outrageous" romaine lettuce. Veggie optimizes LED and nutrient delivery for plant growth. However, where this system (and its predecessor "LADA") fall short is the management of water and nutrients due to the passive nature of the water management system.

2019
BOX FARM LABS'S MISSION IS TO MAKE THE NEXT BREAKTHROUGH IN MICROGRAVITY PLANT PRODUCTION BY CONDUCTING RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF TWO FLAGSHIP PROJECTS: 
 RePHARM & CERES

WHY PLANTS?

PLANTS AS NUTRITION AND SCIENCE RESEARCH

Plant production systems are vital during long duration manned space flights by providing psychological and nutritional support. Growing plants in microgravity environments also carry scientific significance where researchers can investigate plants grown in space and on Earth to determine whether certain growth characteristics are innate or environmentally drive. 

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTOR

During long duration missions, plant growth modules are vital to the mental health of the crew members. Part of this improvement comes from continual interaction with familiar textures, colors and flavors that are lacking in high caloric processed meals [1]. A psychological study on students in a classroom revealed that there was an improvement in cognitive performance of students in one room with plants compared to students in another room with no plants [2]. This means the crew members will be more sharp and alert, thereby improving the productivity of their day to day activities, lowering stress levels and ultimately increasing the success of their mission. 

 
CHALLENGES OF PLANT GROWTH IN AEROSPACE
Space restriction

For plant growth systems to sustain the crew's oxygen supply, analysis has shown that sufficient levels are maintained when 50% of the amount of daily caloric intake is provided by the plants. Providing this supply requires an area of 20 to 25 square meters per crew members [3]. As greenhouse systems increases in size, the amount of responsibility needed to maintain operational functionality also increases, resulting in a need of mechanical automation. 

Ease of Access

A 2017 publication by the AIAA called Key Gaps for Enabling Plant Growth in Future Missions further validated the need for automated plant production measures. This article cites that "The near term goal identified by NASA for plant growth systems is a "pick-and-eat" system.... The intent is that the salad or fruit crops grown the system will grow robustly with minimal resources, require minimal processing and can be consumed raw"[1].

Cargo transport restriction

Due to the orbital arrangement of Mars in relation to Earth, efficient launches  to and from the two planets are only possible every 26 months by some estimates, meaning that astronauts could be out of contact with earth and plant matter for almost 4 years, including 10 month shuttle periods. This means that a tremendous amount of cargo is required to sustain a manned crew at a cost of $6,000,000,000 as estimated by Mars One. This calls for producing of some of the vital resources during the Martian residence, including food. Plants are the easiest and fastest means of regenerative food production, further expedited by BXL's automated technologies. 

 

IN THE COMMUNITY 

LOCAL FARMERS

BXL is working with Hawaii farmers to find solutions to  current food security challenges facing the State by seeking opportunities to adapt our automation and robotics technologies for farm based applications. We are thrilled about collaborating with others and exploring other opportunities! 

A TECH STARTUP

As a tech startup out of Hawaii, we are constantly seeking funding and commercialization opportunities with our technologies and others. Working closely with the University of Hawaii, we are always welcome to more collaborators and new team members. 

Want to get involved? Fill out the form on the Contact page and someone will be in touch shortly!

>>Resources

[1] Anderson, M.S., Barta, D., Douglas, G., Motil, B., Massa, G., ... Hanford, A. (2017). Key Gaps for Enabling Plant Growth in Future Missions. In AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition. Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2017-5142

[3] Wheeler, R.M. (2014). NASA's Controlled Environment Agriculture Testing for Space Habitats. International Conference on Plant Factory, 7. 

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