This Tuesday, September 20 was the excitement of big days in Ivory-sur-Seine. And for good reason, the French start-up Interstellar Lab presented on its premises its first biopod, a biodome that allows the cultivation of all kinds of plants in a controlled environment on Earth and in space. With its concentration of embedded technologies, this greenhouse of the future aims to develop sustainable and regenerative agriculture at a time when the agricultural sector is being tested by global warming.
With this in mind, Interstellar Lab relies on cultivating plants in aeroponics, an above-ground cultivation technique. To reproduce optimal climate conditions for growing plants, the start-up, which collaborates with NASA and CNES, controls all environmental parameters (temperature, humidity, wind, irrigation, CO2 levels, etc.) using sensors that collect data Actual time. These feed BioPod’s management software, which works with artificial intelligence algorithms. The unveiled biopod is the first of a series of ten, which will be installed in 2023. To industrialize the project, a first factory should see the light of day the same year, with the goal of producing a hundred biopods per year on the horizon. 2024.
With this method, it is thus possible to cultivate all kinds of plants anywhere on the planet and test different climates, at a time when heat waves and natural disasters are increasing. “Biopods are the perfect tool to test the effects of global warming”, said Barbara Belvisi, founder and president of Interstellar Labs “Everything is automated inside. We can run programs that allow us to test different types of crops.”she adds.
Interstellar Lab’s process, which also makes it possible to grow endangered plants, is in some ways reminiscent of the urban farms that have sprung up around the world in recent years, inspired by start-ups like Agriculle. It is no coincidence that Antoine Pineau, who spent more than four years at Agricole, is the head of Interstellar Lab’s agronomy department. But with Barbara Belvisi’s project, the aim is not to bring agriculture to urban areas, but to hostile regions of the planet, where growing plants is difficult, if not impossible, even in space.
Biopod, the first component of a self-sufficient and bio-regenerative village
The first prototype presented on Tuesday, September 20 is designed to work only on Earth, but the French company plans to present a space version of the biopod at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida by the end of the year. In the long term, Interstellar Lab plans to send its agricultural modules into low orbit, which will significantly enable it to study the effects of sunlight on its future greenhouses, then take them to the Moon, no earlier than 2027, then March. In this context, the French start-up collaborates specifically with NASA on the Artemis mission.
However, Interstellar Lab’s ambitions far exceeded the biopod. Creating self-sufficient and bio-regenerative villages on Earth and other planets is only one component of a larger project, called EBIOS (Experimental Bioregenerative Station), which will operate in a closed circuit. In this way, they will be able to produce and recycle the water, food and energy needed to accommodate 100 people with a neutral carbon footprint. But we have to wait a few more years to go to infinity and beyond…