Available Technology

Fresh Veggies from Space

Professor Marc Anderson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed a technology for use in plant-growth experiments aboard the Space Shuttle. Anderson's research and WCSAR's technology were funded by NASA and resulted in a joint technology licensed to KES Science and Technology, Inc. This transfer of space-age technology resulted in the creation of a new plant-saving product, an ethylene scrubber for plant growth chambers. This innovation presents commercial benefits for the food industry in the form of a new device, named Bio-KES. Bio-KES removes ethylene and helps to prevent spoilage. Ethylene accounts for up to 10 percent of produce losses and 5 percent of flower losses. Using Bio-KES in storage rooms and displays will increase the shelf life of perishable foods by more than one week, drastically reducing the costs associated with discarded rotten foods and flowers. The savings could potentially be passed on to consumers. For NASA, the device means that astronauts can conduct commercial agricultural research in space. Eventually, it may also help to grow food in space and keep it fresh longer. This could lead to less packaged food being taken aboard missions since it could be cultivated in an ethylene-free environment.
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