MENDELU has joined the space cluster, helping in the field of biotechnology

29. 9. 2021
Mendel University in Brno has joined the newly created Brno Space Cluster, which aims to strengthen cooperation and competitiveness in the space industry. It will contribute primarily to the field of biotechnology. According to the Vice-Rector of Mendel University in Brno, Vojtěch Adam, agriculture with an emphasis on food production will also face enormous challenges in extraterrestrial space.

The connection between the agricultural industries and the space industry may not be obvious at first glance, but it is already working in practice. “If we look a little more into the future, a big challenge for most agricultural industries will be to provide quality and long-term sustainable food to astronauts in orbit and long-term missions to other planets. But it will probably not be a diet in the form of potatoes and other crops. We believe that microalgae, which we have been dealing with here at the university for several years, will be a good choice,” explains Libor Lenža, Head of the Space Agri Technologies Laboratory at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Faculty of AgriScience.

According to Adam, space research has always involved progressive technologies, which then very quickly became part of everyday human life. “As a university, we can offer expertise in algal biotechnology, modern genome editing, and many others, including agricultural production, which will face enormous challenges in extraterrestrial space,” describes Vojtěch Adam, head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Faculty of AgriScience.

Researchers from Mendel University in Brno have in the past participated in projects of the European Space Agency ESA. The university is also working with SAB Aerospace, the largest domestic company in the space industry and one of the founding companies in the cluster, as part of the upcoming Slavia mission, which could lay the foundation for later space asteroid mining. “We already use very advanced technologies today and it could be said that we may not even be able to oversee other evolving applications that will be very useful in the fields of agronomy and others, which we deal with closely here at MENDELU,” adds Lenža.

The established cluster aims to contribute not only in research activities but also in the field of education and the popularization of science. “One of the reasons for our membership is the establishment of the new Laboratory of Space Agri Technologies, which deals with the development of advanced methods usable for growing plants and cultivating microalgae in extreme environments, including space. Already, some students are involved in the projects we prepare within the cluster, so they can perform experiments in our laboratories,” explains Lenža. The university will be able to offer students professional practice in some prestigious member companies in the future. “We already have several dissertations dealing with space research. We are seeing a lot of interest in these unique topics and we want to offer students the opportunity to learn more in this field,” says Adam.

The main motive for the creation of the Brno Space Cluster itself was a common desire for cooperation and the creation of our own and more demanding space projects, both scientific and commercial. “One company can do a little, but as a cluster, we have a much better chance of breaking through and making bigger and more competitive projects. There is little in this industry that only one company does, we know from our own experience that it is mainly about cooperation,” says Václav Havlíček, manager of the Brno Space Cluster.

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