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Japan university launches space horticulture research center, looks to farming on moon

This artist's rendition shows a moon farm. (Image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

MATSUDO, Chiba -- Chiba University has launched the Research Center for Space Agriculture and Horticulture at its Matsudo Campus here, anticipating an era when people will stay on the moon for long periods.

    The university will explore food production technology in the extraterrestrial environment to realize a "space plant factory" by taking advantage of the knowledge and expertise it has accumulated as the only national university in Japan that has a Faculty of Horticulture.

    The institution estimates that about 100 to 1,000 people will live on the moon by the 2030s, while at the same time food security has become an international issue.

    From left, Research Center for Space Agriculture and Horticulture director Hideyuki Takahashi, Chiba University President Toshinori Nakayama, and Graduate School of Horticulture Dean Nobuhiro Matsuoka celebrate the opening of the research center in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, on May 17, 2023. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Naganuma)

    The research center will use special equipment to recreate the space environment, including low gravity and low pressure. Research will be conducted in three areas: "space horticulture breeding," which aims to develop varieties that can grow in such an environment; "high-efficiency production technology"; and "zero-emission technology" to recycle limited resources.

    Chiba University said that a research facility specializing in food production technology for space is rare in Japan.

    At the opening ceremony held at the campus in the city of Matsudo, near Tokyo, on May 17, research center director Hideyuki Takahashi said, "We hope that our research results will also lead to efficient and stable food production on Earth that is not affected by typhoons, insect pests or other factors."

    The center also plans to conduct joint research with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other organizations that are studying unmanned cultivation technology and recycling methods with the aim of realizing a "moon farm."

    (Japanese original by Tatsuya Naganuma, Chiba Bureau)

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