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Guest: Bryce Meyer; Topics: space farms, growing food in space, lunar agriculture, food on Mars, recycling human waste, space farm energy needs and TRL's.
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We welcomed Bryce Meyer to the program to discuss space farms, agriculture and food in space, growing food in space, light and power needs, recycling human waste, closed loop life support and more. During our 1 hour 49 minute program, we discussed multiple topics but not in any specific order as we jumped around due to both email listener questions and listener phone calls. Our discussion format was comprehensive and at times a bit complicated making this program more challenging to summarize than most. As a result, I will hit highlights and rely on you the listener to listen closely for details and great information on these topics. I believe this program was a good reality check on many of the topics we discussed which have also been discussed on multiple past Space Show programs with both guests and listeners.
Mr. Meyers started our lengthy discussion by introducing us to space farms, agriculture in space, the space food supply coming from either Earth or insitu resources, plus recycling human waste for human and plant food, animals in space, fish in space, power and energy needs for space farms and much more. Our discussion was comprehensive, detailed at times and lasted through the first segment or about half our program. Lots of detail, hardware such as pumps, bioreactors, TRLs, power supplies, software, AI and robotics made discussion topics. Our guest used examples to make his point and help us understand just what a space farm may be now and in the future. Note that he did say we could do most of all of this today but since we also talked economics, low cost space transport was needed plus there might be high costs involved in assembling all the equipment needed to start even a simple farm on a small habitat. We spent time talking about economics and costs as they were just as important as technology hardware and software.
The International Space Station (ISS) was frequently discussed as a model and as a lab. For example, on the ISS there has been success growing lettuce and tomatoes. Bryce then talked about hydroponic food production for space but later he talked about soil, making soil, adding light for growing, water, and more. We talked about initial space farms for orbital locations, the lunar surface and down the road for Mars. Another point made by our guest was that shrimp and certain types of fish were ideal for the microgravity space farm which he described since it would need to be enclosed with a supported environment.
Part of our discussion focused on the need for CO2 in space. Comments on this by our guest fueled an email and later a phone call from Ft. Worth John about CO2 needs in space as compared to all the negative we hear about CO2 on Earth. Bryce had much to say about this subject so don't miss his comments. That said, remember, CO2 for space equals good. More on this topic later.
Space farm and food production energy requirements were discussed. Pumps would be needed, liquids were important and of course light or simulated sunlight was crucial. Bryce brought up crops that could be grown on a space farm and serve for export. Such crops included coffee and spices. Don't miss what he said about spaces and how every available corner of a habitat should be used for growing spice. Comments? Please post them on the blog.
As we were about to end the first part of the program, an email came in regarding the need for closed loop life support for humans to Mars. You might be surprised by the response offered by Bryce because it dealt with carbon, nitrogen and other minerals and elements where containment would be necessary meaning a tighter loop would be necessary for the part of the environment impacted by these items. Other needs may be locally available so not so critical resulting in a less rigid loop in the life support system for that item(s). Again, post comments on closed loop life support on our blog.
Moving on, listener Larry asked about the economies of space farming on the Moon . Bryce commented on important economic essentials for doing this type of activity in space. Listen to what would contribute to making a space farm economic. Another listener asked about maintaining human health with recycled food from human waste as well as being artificially grown, plus recycled air. The nuclear sub was brought up as a possible analog. Our guest had much to say about submarine life support, specialized crew selection, plus other comparison points with a space hab. Don't miss this interesting discussion. Before moving on to a totally different topic, our guest was asked about international activity in developing space farming, agriculture, and food production. As you will hear, research and work in these areas is global and widespread. Regarding human health, given the diet suggested by our guest, one email listener thought this would get rid of many diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes. Don't miss our guest comments regarding this listener question.
As mentioned earlier in this summary, questions came in about CO2 in space as compared to Earth. Not only were there email questions on the topic but we took the call from John in Ft. Worth asking about it too. CO2 is very important in space so don't miss what our guest had to say about it throughout our program.
We were nearing the traditional end of the show when we took a call from Dr. Doug. Doug's call was a long one, taking us into an almost two hour program. Doug was TSS listener who suggested Bryce as a guest on the show. Doug knows Bryce so not only did they have a personal exchange, Doug asked relevant questions about some of the research Bryce was undertaking and some facts glossed over earlier in the show regarding space farm economies. Don't miss the Bryce-Doug discussion as it was important on several levels. Doug brought up that LCROSS had found nitrogen on the Moon and wondered if the supply would be sufficient to replace nitrogen losses. Bryce talked about hearing a mining guy talk at a recent settlement conference suggesting that little was known about the lunar subsurface a meter and more underground. Doug suggested radar could tell and was a useful tool, thus he suggested that maybe we had some good lunar subsurface info at least a few meters below the surface. Before logging off the call, Doug asked Bryce to talk about his proposed demo of a space farm with food at the upcoming ISDC for late May 2020 in Frisco, Texas.
Bryce offered closing comments, talked about the importance of dirt and how to make it, he offered lots of comments about using human waste in space and suggested questions for me to ask of an upcoming Space Show guest. He then talked about insects for food, silver carp and tilapia fish. Once again he mentioned the need for human waste recycling for agriculture and even human food production. He thought a reasonable timeline might be a decade.
Please post your comments/questions for Bryce Meyer on the blog for this show. You can reach Mr. Meyer through me or his website, www.spacefarms.info.