NASA Spinoff

Progressive Plant Growing Has Business Blooming

Soil, water, and light. According to prevailing dogma, these are the three main ingredients for growing and maintaining healthy plants. But what if you take soil completely out of the equation and limit the presence of water significantly? Can you still nurture plants in such an environment?

{MOSIMAGE}Call it an agricultural anomaly if you will, green thumbers, but plants are getting the tender loving care they need by way of an environmentally friendly process that is devoid of dirt and uses very little water. This process, known as aeroponics, enables plants to grow in an air/mist environment that is free from soil or an aggregate media. Though not rooted in soil, some aeroponically grown plants are actually rooted in NASA.

In 1997, AgriHouse, Inc. (d.b.a. Aeroponics International), a leading agri-biology company, united with NASA and BioServe Space Technologies, a non-profit, NASA-sponsored partnership research center, to design a soil-less plant-growth experiment to be performed in microgravity, aboard the Mir space station. This experiment aimed to gauge the effectiveness of a non-pesticide solution on the immune responses of bean plants. In essence, the research consortium was looking for a means of keeping plants free from infection, without having to rely on the use of pesticides.

This research, combined with follow-on grants from NASA, has helped Berthoud, Colorado-based AgriHouse gain credibility in the commercial marketplace with related technology and gross the capital necessary to conduct further research in a new-age field known as bio-pharming.

Partnership

Richard Stoner II, president and founder of AgriHouse, began using aeroponics in the late 1980s to grow herbs in a greenhouse. Utilizing his own patented aeroponic process, Stoner was one of the only people in the United States employing the aeroponic plant-propagating technique at the time.

{MOSIMAGE}Several years later, Stoner began working with Colorado State University researchers on perfecting an all-natural, organically derived, disease control liquid formula called Organic Disease Control, or Organically Derived Colloidals (ODC). This formula could cooperate with a plant’s immune system, in an aeroponic environment, to boost growth and ward off disease and infection. Dr. Jim Linden, a Colorado State University professor in the Department of Microbiology and co-inventor of the ODC technology, claimed that previous approaches by other researchers to stimulate a plant’s immune system had “fallen short of sustainable results.” He added that the newly developed ODC formula stimulates a plant’s ability to fight off diseases during its entire life cycle. News of this triumphant effort was spreading, and NASA caught wind of it.