Nanoracks’ spinoff wants to grow food in Earth’s deserts and orbital space

The aerospace company Nanoracks has announced the launch of a new Space AgTech company, StarLab Oasis, which will focus on advancing the knowledge and technology of organisms and food that are produced in the harsh environment of space. According to the company, the expansion represents Nanoracks commitment to address the growing problems of desertification, climate change, water scarcity, and food security.

The company has partnered with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) in an effort to accelerate the growth of Abu Dhabi’s Agtech ecosystem, with potential benefits for the entire world. StarLab Oasis also received support from the government of the desert-covered state, which imports 90% of its food, and will open its first experimental greenhouse in 2022.

Starlab Oasis will feature an international team of experts in various sectors such as bioengineering, plant sciences, genomic seed technology, closed-loop environment systems, robotics, and automated software systems. Allen Herbert, who reported as vice president of business development at Nanoracks, will lead StarLab Oasis as the General Manager.

These researchers will work closely with the existing Nanoracks team and in-space products and with its partners in the UAE, allowing the company to rapidly advance to market leadership in the critical areas of agriculture, climate science, and sustainability. The idea is to create researches that enable the production of food in extreme environments in order to combat any food shortage that may be caused by global warming.

“StarLab Oasis will provide the technology and access necessary to overcome the direst challenges facing our Earth today, from climate change to water scarcity, and to one day, in turn, help sustain tomorrow’s farmers, innovators, and space explorers,” said Jeffrey Manber, CEO of Nanoracks. “We believe passionately that our growing utilization of the space environment can reap results that will change the lives of billions of people suffering from an increasingly fragile food security chain and being uprooted because of fundamental and historic changes in the climate.”

In addition, StarLab Oasis will send seeds to space in order to produce more resilient mutations of existing key agricultural crops – this technique, also known as space mutagenesis, has been successfully used in China for more than three decades. Allen Herbert believes that much of the world’s sustainable and economically viable food production will one day come from deserts, harsh environments, and off Earth. Thus, with the technology developed by the company, it will be possible to grow vegetables more efficiently in the desert and in space, thanks to the great abundance of renewable solar energy.

A growing global population and changing diets are driving up the demand for food. Governments worldwide increasingly have to look to new methods for sustainable food production, as if climate change is taken into account, it makes it impossible to grow certain crops.

Other innovations such as artificial intelligence, vertical farming, digital agriculture, and agrivoltaic systems can dramatically affect the way food is produced and could potentially boost yields amid increasing food insecurity.

Herbert also believes that the results of the ground-breaking work at StarLab Oasis will have tangible, down-to-earth benefits which will help us pursue new ways of using technology to produce food while simultaneously coping with climate challenges.

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