My Cart

Posted by SASTA

on 27/05/2024

With the Aurora Australis visible in the last couple of weeks you have probably spent some time staring up at the stars. Maybe wondering about the next Moon mission, or what life on Mars could look like? Space is an ever-fascinating topic, and a subject that truly brings science as a human endeavour into focus. And with new space-inspired careers emerging every day, who knew you could become a Space Botanist, Space Lawyer, or even a Space Chef?

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space is bringing together all aspects of growing plants in space, with the vision to enable human deep space exploration and improve on-Earth sustainability through plant and food redesign. Learning how to properly conduct space agriculture, with the intent of feeding astronauts for longer space travel, can teach us about how to increase sustainability in our current food production chains. Investigating what a balanced diet constitutes for an astronaut and how to best find the nutrients for it, shows us what a good diet could look like here on Earth – and what novel foods might be introduced to ensure we are getting our protein, vitamins and minerals!

Space agriculture is focused on understanding how plants can grow in the presence of high radiation and micro-gravity, but also learning how to grow crops in a highly controlled manner as Lunar and Martian surfaces are so hostile that it will only allow plants to develop indoors. Our future crop production could be supplemented with food growing in controlled environments as well, in vertical farms where aeroponics and hydroponics eliminate the use of soil and robots monitor the growth conditions of our lettuces, cabbage and herbs. The use of LED lights in vertical farms and indoor growth-rooms mimics day-night rhythms but can also contribute to the expression of different genes in plants. Further investigations into using this to use plants as little mini-bio-factories for compounds for pharmaceuticals and degradable bioplastics is ongoing.

Vertical Farm 1

Although plants are already being grown at the International Space Station, our first official Plants for Space crops will travel to the Moon in the so-called LEAF investigation, and includes seeds from red and green varieties of Brassica rapa (Wisconsin Fast Plants®), Wolffia (duckweed), and Arabidopsis thaliana. After a short stay on the Lunar surface, the seedlings will be brought back to Earth for further investigations to see how our plants did under the stress of excessive Lunar sunlight, radiation, and the vacuum of space.  

The Plants for Space team is a nationwide centre with international links to a wide range of educational, technology and industry partners, and we are working on several outreach and engagement programs for students and teacher professional development on topics such as evolution (within the biology curriculum), nutritional value and GM foods (within the nutrition curriculum) and many others as we are developing our platform.

In Australia our researchers are located at the University of Western Australia, Flinders University, The University of Adelaide, The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University, and funded through the Australian Research Council. For more information you can find us online, on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, or contact us directly through    

Dr Lieke van der Hulst

Communications and engagement officer (SA Node) ARC Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space

P4S Gradient Long PosText RGB