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Zero-Gravity, Tropical Institute Partner on Food Security

Lettuce grown on ISS

Mizuna lettuce grown on the International Space Station in 2010 (NASA.gov)

24 July 2014. Zero Gravity Solutions Inc. and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are collaborating on implementing technologies originally developed for the U.S. space program to improve food security in Africa and other tropical regions. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

IITA, in Ibadan, Nigeria, conducts research on agricultural plant health and production issues of concern to growers in Africa, including biotechnology, genetics. management of natural resources, social sciences, and agribusiness. Its research program is aligned and coordinated with CGIAR, formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a global agricultural science organization and research funder.

Zero Gravity Solutions in Boca Raton, Florida is a biotechnology company that develops agricultural solutions based on plant science research conducted in microgravity conditions during six flights on the International Space Station. John W. Kennedy, Zero Gravity’s founder and chief scientist, is a veteran scientist whose background spans NASA and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kennedy holds several current and pending patents on the processing of plant, animal, and human cells during space orbits.

The agreement calls for IITA to adapt BAM-FX — short for Bio Available Minerals Formula X — Zero Gravity’s technology for delivering minerals and nutrients to plants, originally designed by Kennedy for growing food crops in space vehicles. BAM-FX, says Zero Gravity, makes it possible for plants to increase specific minerals and nutrients into plants, such as zinc and copper, without introducing DNA from other plant species. Preliminary tests on crops in the U.S. cited by Zero Gravity show the technology promotes more robust rooting, greater biomass, increased sugar content, and higher chlorophyll reactivity.

The company says BAM-FX bolsters the immune systems of plants by moving mineral ions to parts of the target plants deficient in those minerals, which also enhances the survivability of the plants. BAM-FX can be applied either by soaking seeds or after planting by treating the leaves.

Zero Gravity says BAM-FX can also be deployed with little outside support in extreme or hostile growing conditions, such as the arid and tropical regions found in Africa. In addition, BAM-FX requires smaller quantities of additive minerals and growth compounds compared to conventional farming of high-yield crops. Since it is neither a traditional fertilizer nor a pesticide, BAM-FX does not face issues of run-off into water supplies.

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