This episode of Agrify Live is OUT OF THIS WORLD! We have Mike Dixon from the University of Guelph joined by our hosts, Matt and David.
Mike Dixon is the Director of the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF). As project leader for the Canadian research team investigating the contributions of plants to life support in space, Dr. Dixon formed the Space and Advanced Life Support Agriculture (SALSA) program at the University of Guelph (@uofguelph). This program currently represents Canada’s main contribution to the international space science objectives in biological life support and collaborates with NASA (@nasa) and the Canadian and European Space Agencies (@canadianspaceagency) (@europeanspaceagency)
The CESRF is among the world’s leading research venues for technology developments and research dedicated to studying plant and microbial interactions in advanced life support systems. The technical “pull” of space exploration has aided the development of a wide range of technologies that have spun off into applications in terrestrial agri-food sectors and most notably the phyto-pharmaceutical (medicine from plants) sector in recent years.
Why Growing in Controlled Environments is Important:
- You can reproduce the same results in different environments if you have a high fidelity-controlled environment (controlling light, CO2, humidity, temperature, nutrients, water).
- Drought stress can increase essential oils in herbs—it can also increase terpenoids and cannabinoids. But to give the exact drought stress to induce the same amount of response phytochemically in the evolution of the secondary metabolites, technology that’s not commercially available for growers yet is required. Even still, growers must focus on automating irrigation.
- A lot of growers use independent grow systems for different aspects of their grow that aren’t integrated, but without that communication between controllers, they lose out on the ability to maximize the environment and reproduce it precisely.
- The biggest problem in growing is the poor homogeneity of aerial humidity and temperature—that’s how you get fungal pathogens.
- Medicinal compounds of cannabis are affected by the environment in which it was grown, so automating and standardizing the growing mechanisms is imperative in the medical cannabis industry.
- Medical cannabis industry cultivators must use LED lights—they have improved a lot recently, increasing in efficacy and decreasing in cost, and can be controlled to achieve consistent growing environments.
- Light is powerful in manipulating expression of secondary metabolites, which is what gives plants their tastes, colors, and medicinal composition.
- Genetics determine a spectrum of what is possible as an outcome, but environment dictates where you land on that spectrum.