Lagniappe Ladies help research team make salsa in space

Nov 14, 2021 | Engineering and Science, Giving, Innovation, Research, Student News Bureau, Students

In 2020, a team of Louisiana Tech’s best and brightest biomedical engineering researchers was charged by NASA with finding out how to farm cherry tomatoes and lettuce in space-like conditions.

Through of the help of NASA and the Lagniappe Ladies, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving Louisiana Tech, this team was able to buy growth chambers, simulated lunar dust, and a patent on the coding of a certain nanoparticle: halloysite.

“Halloysite is the equivalent of a tube of toilet paper after all the toilet paper has been used,” said Dr. David Mills, leader of this research group. Because of its simplicity, this nanoparticle can be coated with agrochemical protectants, making it a “a hyper-fertilizer.” The coating allows plants to receive the nutrients they need to survive harsh environments.

“Basically, NASA asked us to give astronauts the ability to make a salsa,” Mills said. With a donation from the Lagniappe Ladies, he was able to buy the technology needed to do just that. However, this research project does not only benefit space explorers, it also has uses here on earth.

“If it works, this technology could benefit a wide variety of farmers,” Mills said. In the wake of climate change and natural disasters, land-use patterns are changing. Discoveries in biological science relating to farming in previously impossible conditions could decrease food insecurity worldwide.

This story was written by Marketing student Sophie Edwards.