Zero Gravity Solutions and NASA to research plant life in space

The VC-backed company will look at how agriculture can help humans survive on space colonies.

Zero Gravity Solutions (ZGS) will collaborate with NASA’s Ames Research Center (ARC) to test the company’s plant nutrient delivery system to find out whether it could be used to support life in space.

By the beginning of December 2015, the company had raised $3 million. Cornerstone investors were Soumyo Sarkar, a former Deutsche Bank managing director and founder of institutionally-oriented investment advisory firm Sumit Capital, and Alexander Boies, a former associate at Schiller & Flexner.

At the time, ZGS board chairman Harvey Kaye told Agri Investor the company hoped to add another $4 million to this by the end of 2015.

The agreement between NASA and ZGS will give the company access to NASA’s coveted team of scientists. Alongside continued research at ZGS labs, NASA will carry out its research and develop new agricultural technologies and products with $373,750 of funding from ZGS, according to an SEC filing.

The space research organisation has been looking into the need for regenerative support systems that could allow future colonies to survive out in space for at least 15 years.

A news bulletin from NASA published in 2001 predicted that: “For future spacefarers gardening will be a matter of survival. Plants and people – two very different kinds of astronauts – will eventually live together in balanced, sustainable habitats.”

The research at NASA will also explore agricultural technologies that could be used home on earth, including how these technologies might impact commercial crop yields.

The company’s fertiliser Bioavailable Minerals – Formula X (BAM-FX), “an ionic nutrient delivery formulation designed to effectively deliver bioavailable forms of important nutrients to support plant growth”, will be the first product NASA scientists will look at under the scheme.

Kaye told Agri Investor in an interview last year that the flagship product will be delivered to the International Space Station via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Dragon rocket on 21 March.

Kaye declined to share specifics on the structure of the research to be undertaken on the International Space Station, saying he did not wish to divulge information on a space mission with multiple stakeholders. He said more information on the work would be available after the conclusion of a 30-day study.