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Farming techniques from 'The Martian' movie already in use by UA - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Farming techniques from 'The Martian' movie already in use by UA researchers

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TUCSON - The biggest movie of the weekend, 'The Martian,' has already made over $50 million.

It's the story of an astronaut left behind on a mission to Mars. To survive, he has to figure out farming on Martian soil.

His techniques aren't that far-fetched. In fact, some Tucson scientists are doing almost the exact same thing at the Campus Agricultural Center.

"There’s a lot of similarities in look and feel from what he did in the book and the movie to what we're doing here in this laboratory,” said Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona.  

The biggest difference, the cylindrical greenhouse grows sweet potatoes, lettuce and other veggies using hydroponics.

"Our experiment is to demonstrate how much oxygen we can produce, how much water we can produce for people to live, and how much food," said Giacomelli.  

It's a unique program that is carefully controlled by computers and funded by a NASA grant. The hope is that one day a similar chamber can be sent to other planets.

“If this can be sustainable, then we can go great distances for long periods of time without resupplying," Giacomelli.

It still could be a long time before that happens. Until then, this technology could be used in emergencies on Earth.

“If you get stranded in some arctic regions for whatever reasons and you need to produce food, they could potentially quickly deploy. They're fully automatic, and let it go," said Roberto Furfaro, director of the Space Systems Engineering Lab at the University of Arizona.  

The program hopes to have a total of four chambers operational in the near future at the Campus Agricultural Center.

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