Nutrient Mixing System for Future Lunar Greenhouses

Greenhouse concept for use on the moon and Mars. (Credit: LIQUIFER Systems Group)

BREMEN, Germany (DLR PR) — The development of greenhouse systems is essential in order to enable life on the moon and Mars in the long term in the future. This requires bio-regenerative life support systems that close vital cycles. After more than a year of joint design and development work in cooperation between the Dutch company Priva and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), two prototypes of a nutrient mixing system for future lunar and Mars greenhouses have now been completed and installed. Tests of the promising systems begin in the DLR’s EDEN laboratory in Bremen. The aim is to set up a 1: 1 demonstrator of a lunar greenhouse system there by 2025.

“The modular structure of the prototypes will enable the system to be flexibly adapted to changing needs in the future. Findings from space research can already be incorporated into the food production of the future in climatically unfavorable areas such as deserts and arctic regions, ”explains Prof. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, CEO of DLR.

Providing water, oxygen and food

Priva had already visited in mid-September on DLR Institute for Space Systemsthe installation of both prototypes was carried out with the area of ​​a Euro pallet. An efficient automatic nutrient mixing system is an essential part of future research. “The mixing computer represents a central element of the nutrient cycle and can therefore enable a perfectly regulated supply of nutrients for plants. The strategic partnership with Priva enables us to accelerate the development process for our planned lunar greenhouse system, ”said Dr. Daniel Schubert, head and founder of the EDEN research group at the DLR Institute for Space Systems. Integrated CEA technologies (Controlled Environment Agriculture) are central to the reliable supply of water, oxygen and fresh food.

Prototype of a nutrient mixing system. [Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)]

Compact system with precise dosing

After more than 18 months, the design and development phase of the nutrient mixing systems has ended. “The devices were specially designed for smaller indoor systems. We attached particular importance to a small, compact system that also meets the high requirements for precise nutrient dosing, ”says Edgar Konijnendijk, Manager for Water Systems at Priva. The nutrient mixing systems are novel prototypes that the Dutch company developed exclusively for research at DLR as part of the EDEN group. The new technology includes three sub-systems each for water level control in the mixing tank, for fertilizer dosing and for the irrigation infrastructure.  The entire system is controlled and regulated with the Priva control computer (Connext). Different types of fertilizer solutions,

Technology test for a lunar greenhouse system

In the coming months, the DLR-EDEN team will connect the prototypes to the new irrigation infrastructure of the CLTF (Closed-Loop Test Facility) in the EDEN laboratory at the Bremen site. The CLTF is a space test greenhouse developed for the Moon and Mars. The nutrient solution provided by the two prototypes is sprayed every five minutes onto the roots of the plants in the test greenhouse using the aeroponics method. In the future, microbial distribution patterns, variations in nutrient mixtures and irrigation optimization are to be examined more closely. “With the two new prototypes, we have reached an important milestone for our roadmap. This aims to set up a 1: 1 test demonstrator of a lunar greenhouse system by 2025, ”says Dr. Daniel Schubert.

Climate, mobility and technology are changing globally:

DLR uses the know-how of its 55 institutes and facilities to develop solutions for these challenges. Our 10,000 employees have a common mission: We explore earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In this way we contribute to strengthening Germany as a location for knowledge and business.

About Priva:

The high-tech company Priva develops and produces hardware, software and data services in the field of climate control, energy saving and optimal water reuse. With over 500 employees, 16 locations and more than 450 international partners, Priva delivers sustainable and innovative solutions for garden and greenhouse cultivation and building automation in more than 100 countries. The aim of the company is to make a significant contribution to the future by creating a healthy working and living environment as well as access to safe and nutritious food.