Host: The WDRC Students Committee
The Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at the University of Guelph in Canada is among the world's leading venues for research and technology development devoted to biological life support (ie. plants in space) for human space exploration. The requirements for high fidelity environment control for reliable and safe food production in space are among the most critical issues to resolve as food determines how far from Earth we can go and how long we can stay. These same plant production technologies have equally useful applications here on Earth, especially in extreme environments such as Canada's North and the deserts of the Middle East. Plants are a product of their environment within the limits of their genetic complement. The environmental context determines many attributes such as size, shape, colour, and complement of secondary metabolites such as taste and nutritional composition. The prospect of standardizing these attributes requires breeding and horticultural management strategies including environment control strategies. Technologies that evolved in the life support requirements for space exploration will be discussed and demonstrated for their relevance in terrestrial agri-food industry sectors.
Dr. Mike Dixon is a Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences and Director of the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF), University of Guelph. He served as Chair of the Department of Environmental Biology from 2003-2008. Dr. Dixon joined the University as a NSERC University Research Fellow after earning his PhD from Edinburgh University in Scotland and holding a post-doctoral position at the University of Toronto. As project leader for the Canadian research team investigating the contributions of plants to life support in space, Dr. Dixon formed the Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture (SALSA) program at the University of Guelph. This program currently represents Canada's main contribution to the international space science objectives in biological life support and collaborates with NASA and the Canadian and European Space Agencies. The CESRF is among the world's leading research venues for technology developments and research dedicated to studying plant and microbial interactions in advanced life support systems. The technical "pull" of space exploration has aided the development of a wide range of technologies that have spun off into applications in terrestrial agri-food sectors and most notably the phyto-pharmaceutical (medicine from plants) sector in recent years.