Carrots In Space

For this year’s Hackaday Prize, [will.stevens] is growing his own produce and now looks for a way to shield his endeavors from the perils of the British winter. To achieve this, he decided to grow vegetables in sealed containers. Inspired by prior art and backed up by research, his approach is a wild mix of applied laziness on one hand and reckless over-engineering on the other. The sealed containers in this project are PET bottles, chosen for their availability and the produce are carrots, mainly because they can be harvested through the bottle’s mouth. Carrots also feature a high energy density and can provide fibers for plant-based construction materials so [will] deems them ideal space colonist food.

The project is currently in its fourth attempt and somewhere along the road from carrot seeds, dirt and some water in a soda bottle to the current state, the setup sprouted artificial lighting and a CO2 sensor. Fully aware that sealed greenhouses are a proven concept, [will.stevens] provides links to literature one should read before attempting something like this, alongside regular updates on his progress.

With a sensor and LEDs already in place, it is just a matter of time until a raspi will be added. Or we might see the demise of the soil in favor of a hydroponic setup.

18 thoughts on “Carrots In Space

  1. Interesting mass and energy balance to study for in particular… carrots. I just harvested a a few bags of sunchokes to transplant and was looking at what the nutrient values are and still reading to see what the ideal soil is for more than an idea of where they thrived here. They’ll fit in nicely with my chicory lane also.

  2. If producing food is the goal, he’s doing a bad job. If he wants to watch carrots grow in sealed bottles while playing with new sensors, he’s doing great!

    A cold frame can extend your growing season by a few months in most locations, maybe even through the winter, especially for cool weather crops like carrots and greens. A few old storm windows, or some clear purpose built panels if aesthetics matter more than cost, will out produce the same area of bottle gardens.

    The bit about carrot based fiber seems like a throw away idea in the article, and impractical at best if brought to fruition. Plenty of other crops probably give better yield, which would be paramount for domed colonies with limited grow space.

      1. Curran sounds like it relies on a lot of other industries to get the fibers at a profitable rate. If you’re on some anchor colony are you really able to devote an acre to grow 12-30 tons of carrots you need to make fiber reinforced rods? Bamboo exceeds this yield by the second year & doesn’t require extensive processing to be useful, though it would also benefit from resin impregnation. Sugar beets have similar structure to carrots (but is it similar enough? I dunno) and provide a pretty stable yield of 30 tons per acre. Also providing sugar that could be processed into rocket fuel (or to drink).
        Then there’s all manner of reeds or cereals that also provide usable fibers. Cattails provide water treatment, edible stalks and tubers that can be fermented. And this is ignoring cellulose ethanol production for all of the plants mentioned.

        The study on carrots is interesting but they seem like an odd candidate for a space colony to function on unless you have mountains of carrot pulp rotting away already.

    1. I think the basic idea is with knowledge of nutrient requirements for growth… finding what the essential (not synthesized in the biome (mycorrhizae, bacteria, soil&air interactions and chemical reactions) or epigenome or terminal nutrients not synthesized to essential in the epigenome) nutrients are if not known and the energy required at I guess a minimum amount of mass and energy to get a suitable or worse case mass and energy requirement scenario grow cycle. I think I just over complicated the scenario in my thought since photosynthesis and respiration processes are more being looked into here. I’d research more into this and see what others have found with their bottle grow operations.

  3. Sealed vegetable growing would be an interesting science fair project with one major flaw. If the kid discovers that the plants are super good at removing CO2 and that getting enough is a challenge since the plants aggressively “process” it, they may end up with the politically incorrect idea that more CO2 is a good thing in the atmosphere for helping “feed” the plants. Photosynthesis needs CO2 you know. Imaging getting a D or even an F in science for doing the scientifically sensible thing but not the politically sensible thing. That would teach a few life lessons.

    1. “CO2 is plant food” is as tired, debunked, & misguided as it gets in the ignorance of science. The issue isn’t plants it’s the rest of the planet. Every “plant food” causes issues for the ecosystem if it’s in the wrong amounts

      1. As self appointed Executive Director of the Department of Mass and Energy Balance, I’m going to suggest as a vision to move forward with detailing all the known living systems mass and energy requirements from a minimum for survival internal, boundary and external environmental variables perspective and an optimal production perspective. Please report back with awesome looking graphs and charts and posters with marketing and advertising tools for the kiddos. Carry on.

        1. Go read any agronomy text, FAO report, study on land management, or start with eutrophication. Pollution is energy/material in the wrong place.
          Yes you’ll have to do some work to find these reports, yes they’ll have jargon in them, sorry work is hard but you don’t get to celebrate your ignorance without challenge.
          Instead of buying into some random blog that’s “got ‘The Truth’ about climate change THEY don’t want you to hear!” complete with pictures of keychain thermometers stuck in their garage; read the actual science reports. Don’t settle for some journalists interpretation of what a scientist said either (they often make their own mistakes), read the actual report/article. Most of them are public domain or found for free with a bit of digging. If it’s behind a paywall you might have to go to a (University) library *gasp* or find them at one of the sites that has freed them from their paywall (eg; sci-hub). Sometimes you can even get an authors proof or brief clarification from one of the actual scientific authors if you ask nicely.

          1. Sorry to necromace this thread, but that is incorrect.

            Increasing the co2 concentration in greenhouses above normal levels is a common technique to promote plant growth.
            For instance:

            “The benefits of carbon dioxide supplementation on plant growth and production within the greenhouse environment have been well understood for many years.”

            “For the majority of greenhouse crops, net photosynthesis increases as CO2 levels increase from 340–1,000 ppm”

   (a gov website)

            You can make the case that to much co2 has other problems. But it will have a direct positive effect on plant growth rates, and this has been experimentally proven.

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