New Mexico-based company publishes research results for improving food production in space

Space News

Artist’s rendition of UbiQD’s quantum dot-enabled greenhouse film, UbiGro™, installed in a lunar greenhouse growing tomatoes. Photo credit: UbiQD, Inc. (PRNewsfoto/UbiQD, Inc.)

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico based company, UbiQD, Inc. has published results of its first phase of NASA funded plant trials in a research journal. According to a news release, the results were published in the open-access Nature Research journal, “Communications Biology“. The study confirms the use of quantum dots for optimized crop growth on space missions. 

“We are grateful for the opportunity to develop an understanding of quantum dot capabilities to improve crop production,” said Gene Giacomelli in a news release, a professor of Biosystems Engineering at the University of Arizona, who leads the work at UA-CEAC. “Ultimately, UbiQD’s technology is about the betterment of crop production, and will lead to new strategies for optimizing production in greenhouses.”

The news release states that in late 2018, UbiQD was awarded an initial contract as part of NASA’s mission to advance capabilities for food production in space. In 2020, NASA then awarded UbiQD a phase II contract for exploring new light recipes, and the company also received a matching award from the New Mexico Economic Development Department to further commercialization.

According to the same news release, the collaborative research and development project with the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center demonstrated a 13% biomass improvement for red romaine lettuce using UbiQD’s orange-emitting, luminescent greenhouse product UbiGro T, and a 9% increase for a new red-emitting film.

UbiQD states that the plant trial was outlined to maintain all growth parameters minus spectrum and demonstrated improved photosynthetic efficiency under the film treatments compared to the unmodified control case. The results of the trial show the importance of light color on plant grown and how the technology can improve the productivity of crops on Earth and in space.

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