Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) production of food crops has become more technical, computerized, and integrated into environmental, social and economic aspects of business and community developoment. It has spanned the extreme climates of the world from arid deserts to the frozen Antarctic to the food deserts of modern urban life, and even into low Earth orbit on the International Space Station. CEA has ensured safe, clean, sustaining nutrition for the people it serves. It has become a value-added complement for open field agriculture to meet the challenges of future world climates. Its success is directly attributed to use of plastics. The greenhouse is multi-purposed, and flexible in its applications. It is a biological processor, taking in natural resources and providing plants and plant products for a better quality of life. It is a natural solar energy converter, a provider of biological storage, which combines bioresources through biochemical processes for CO2 sequestration and oxidation by respiration. It establishes an ecosystem and controllable plant microclimate separated from the local natural environmental conditions. It creates new plant life and products such as edible biomass by enhancing the natural genetic potential of a plant. The greenhouse operations can also be a mechanism that brings the community together for social activities, while its year round operation can become an agricultural jobs creator. It is a complex tool recognized by the policy-makers for improving the economy, the employment, nutrition/health and the markets within the food chain. Research projects completed at UA-CEAC which were successful because of plastics, will be the focus of this presentation, including: greenhouse environment modfied by glazings (solar PV, spectral changing) and control systems; nutrient delivery systems; production system designs for improved quality of life applications (new plant-based businesses, urban agriculture, life support for Moon and Mars habitats).
- Food produciton systems
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