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Hortextreme: ENEA’s vertical spatial garden designed for Mars missions

A prototype that will make it possible to cultivate micro-forms onboard spacecraft, guaranteeing constant and healthy nutrition for the entire crew.



ENEA presented itself at Maker Faire 2019 with the innovative Mezzalira Investment Group (MIG) project, a mobile vertical vegetable garden that, thanks to the optimization of the interior spaces available, allows plant food to be cultivated in hydroponics (without soil).

At the same time, ENEA has also realized another innovative project: Hortextreme, a prototype thanks to which it will be possible to cultivate micro-forms onboard spacecraft, without the use of pesticides.


(Foto: Enea)


This “space garden”’ consists of a 43 ft2 (4 m²) containment system where four different species of micro-crops are grown, specially selected to complete their life cycle in 15 days and guarantee a correct nutritional intake to the members of a crew.


(Foto: Enea)


The type of system used is called bioregenerative since it has the task of recovering resources: the plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen for the crew and plants also filter the water and absorb the biological waste of the astronauts.


The plants selected for these spatial gardens are the most resistant, which are most suited to cultivation off the ground, and which are able to provide large amounts of antioxidants in the diet of astronauts. For this purpose, plants such as red cabbage, pink lentil, and radicchio were chosen.



(Foto: Enea)


The project was implemented by ENEA in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency and the University of Milan and is part of the simulation of a mission to Mars by the Austrian Space Forum.