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Space-age Agriculture Comes Down to Earth
Plants are important to sustain life in space, and they're expected to play a great role in making the Vision for Space Exploration to go to the Moon, Mars and beyond become a reality. But growing live plants in space has had its challenges.

Commander  Michael Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri Long interested in ways to aid plant growth, NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and Kennedy Space Center in Florida began initial work with Boulder Innovative Technologies (BIT) to find a way to provide nutrient-rich soil for long-term space travel.

Image Left: Expedition 8 Commander Michael Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri pose beside the pea plants growing in the Lada-4 greenhouse experiment. Image credit: NASA

Think of your own backyard garden and all of the tools and watering systems needed to grow plants to fruition. Then imagine trying to grow a garden on the Space Shuttle or International Space Station in small spaces with limited resources. Add on top of that the lack of gravity and we can see that maintaining a healthy garden could turn out to be downright difficult.

With lots of research and ingenuity, scientists developed a synthetic super-soil, loaded with zeolite minerals that contain essential plant-loving growth nutrients. This technique was named "zeoponics."

The plants are actually self-regulating: they take what they need, when they need it. Adding only water, plants grow in the zeoponic soil for several growth cycles.

Now what does that have to do with us here on Earth? The same mineral growth nutrients could be added to our soil to bring "space-age agriculture down to Earth," according to Richard Andrews, chief executive officer and chairman of ZeoponiX, Inc. based in Louisville, Colo. This company was established as a sister and spinoff company from BIT to bring zeoponic products to commercial industries.

Ohio Clearview golf course The first usage of the ZeoPro (the trademarked name for ZeoponiX, Inc. fertilizing products) has been used on golf courses, sports playing fields and greenhouses.

Image to Right: The Ohio Clearview Golf Club used ZeoPro™ nutrients to change the type of grass on the green. Success has exceeded expectations -- due to the release of zeoponic materials in the root zone of the new seedlings. Image credit: NASA/Spinoff

ZeoPro™ has proven to provide a slowly dissolving reservoir of nutrients to plants, increasing the plants' strength and performance.

Now available for use on lawns, shrubs and houseplants, NASA brings space-age technology right into your home and garden.

For further information, visit:
+ Spinoff Online: Commercialized NASA Technology
+ NASA Connections to Everyday Life
+ Slow-Release Fertilizer
Courtesy of the NASA Innovative Partnerships Program
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Spinoff OnLine
Elaine M. Marconi, KSC Staff Writer