Move over, freeze-dried foods and Tang. The astronauts of tomorrow may be growing veggies in their spacecraft or even on the moon and Mars. OSRAM, a global high-tech lighting company, showed off its PHYTOFY horticultural lighting system at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). PHYTOFY RL uses LED lights that can be tuned, controlled and scheduled for different research applications.

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veggies growing in a vertical garden under purple light

NASA is experimenting with PHYTOFY at the Kennedy Space Center to create plant recipes, which could eventually be used at the international space station. “While space is limited on spacecraft, NASA hopes to eventually scale up to larger growing areas, such as the lunar surface, the Martian surface or even during space transit,” said Steve Graves, strategic program manager for urban and digital farming.

Related: Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

lettuce growing beneath multicolored led lights

The PHYTOFY system includes an electric light unit, control gear and software. “The ability to control and schedule spectra, dosing plants photon by photon, is extremely innovative, especially when put into the hands of plants scientists,” Graves said.

two people looking closely at plants

Despite the allure of space, OSRAM isn’t giving up on this planet. The plantCube is an Earth-based example of horticultural tech in OSRAM’s CES 2019 display. This hydroponic “smart garden,” made by agrilution, uses OSRAM’s LED technology to make it easy to grow greens and herbs.

purple lights inside a plantCube

“With the plantCube, we meet two different global trends: the desire for people living in big cities to have a healthy diet alongside a switch to local food production,” Maximilian Lössl, co-founder of agrilution, said. “With this closed system, you are able to reduce water consumption and keep the use of fertilizers to a minimum, while eliminating the need for pesticides.”

plants growing underneath rows of multicolored LED lights

One of OSRAM’s breakthroughs — both in outer space and on Earth — is using different wavelengths of light to control plants’ growth cycles. Plants can then be harvested more or less frequently, as needed. “Light recipes” can also increase the nutrients and vitamins in plants and alter their flavors. OSRAM continues to collaborate with labs and universities to fine-tune and explore applications.


Images via OSRAM

tall vertical gardens growing lettuce