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Category: Environment

Researchers Grow Food in Polyurethane Foam

Could plants grown in polyurethane foam be key to helping solve the world’s food crisis? Experts from the new Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield in England seem to think so. A group of researchers there has found that certain crops planted in polyurethane foam grow two to 10 times faster than plants grown in traditional soil.

How Do Plants Grow?

The polyurethane foam in which the plants are grown is treated with nutrients delivered via a network of pipes in a controlled environment. Today, researchers have successfully grown everything from salad greens to tomatoes in the polyurethane foams meant to chemically, physically and biologically resemble soil.

A Polyurethane Foam Farm

To evaluate the effectiveness of the polyurethane foams on a larger scale, researchers created a working model of an urban farm in the town of Sheffield, England.

By converting an old, abandoned primary school into an urban farm – complete with classrooms and offices filled with hydroponics – researchers are now hoping to prove that urban farms can contribute to alleviating food shortages in urban centers.

Each year, 24 billion tons of fertile soil are lost globally to erosion. Research into polyurethane foam growing techniques may provide insights to help reduce crop shortages should the steady decline of soil fertility continue.