Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aquaponics in Antarctica

Name: Aquaponics in Antarctica

Location: Ross Island and the South Pole, Antarctica

Years: 1987- Present

Institutions: McMurdo Station in Ross Island and Amundesn-Scott South Pole Research Centers

Contributors: University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center

The largest research station in Antarctica goes without sunlight for 4 months of the year, meaning that it relies on food deliveries for fresh vegetables. To eliminate this dependency, they created an 820-square foot insulated hydroponics tank that grows vegetables to provide the 240 workers with fresh weekly salads. The Antarctic Conservation Act prohibits the import of soil into Antarctica as a precaution to prevent the introduction of microorganisms. So, one might wonder, how can fresh vegetables be grown in a place with out sunlight and soil? The answer is Hydroponics! An 820 square foot insulated growth chamber containing 41 high intensity discharge lamps and 10 NFT hydroponics systems was built at McMurdo in the 1980’s. Plants grown in the chamber include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and even flowers. McMurdo’s “greenhouse” is operated manually. That is to say, the hydroponics nutrient solutions are monitored using a hand held meter and nutrient adjustments are made by adding stock solution with a graduated cylinder.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, located at the South Pole at 90 degrees, is in darkness 6 months out of the year. The distance between the South Pole and McMurdo is more than 800 miles. Although the South Pole has had a year-round presence since 1957, a new station is currently being built to replace the original aging station. Within the new station, a computer controlled vegetable growth chamber has been in operation for almost 2 winters. Like McMurdo, the South Pole cannot be re-supplied over the winter and so, if fresh vegetables are to be had, they must be grown on site.

The South Pole Food Growth Chamber’s (SPFGC) production room, covering a 392 square foot area, was designed and built by The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) under the supervision of Dr. Gene Giacomelli (Director, CEAC) and built in cooperation with the Sadler Machine Company.

The South Pole “greenhouse” is climate controlled. It has automated atmospheric CO2 enrichment, hydroponic nutrient delivery and acid injection systems. It records, controls and displays key environmental conditions via its ARGUS agricultural environment control equipment. And it is illuminated by twelve 1000-watt water-jacketed HPS lamps capable of capturing waste heat given off by the lights to supplement the heat used in warming the station’s fresh air supply. Obviously, heat is hard to come by at the South Pole and with the SPFGC, it is not wasted.

With support from University of Arizona’s CEAC, Nan Rogers and Kelly Kozdras currently operate the South Pole chamber. The SPFGC now grows tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, strawberries and many different herbs for the 70 crewmembers currently wintering at the South Pole.


1 comment:

  1. I wonder if they have plans to for an aquaculture unit. I think some home grown tilapia or shrimps might look good on the menu, come those long cold nights.