Taking over the Instagram gardening world is not enough for Lucy Start (aka @SheGrowsVeg) who is rocketing horticulture to a new dimension by partnering with the European Space Agency (the ESA).
Lucy Start was once the go-to couture jewellery designer for the likes of Cheryl Cole, Kylie Minogue and Rihanna. However, in 2018, she pivoted her career to gardening. She has since built a strong online following and become famed for growing rare and unusual edibles and championing innovative growing techniques in both industry and at home.
Previously used to working with celebrities, Lucy is now looking forward to working with stars of a different kind with the ESA. As part of the ongoing “Botanical Astrolust” collaboration, she will report on the ESA’s research related to growing plants both on earth and in space, sustainability and the development of food for consumption in space.
The reports will focus around the ESA’s MELiSSA (Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative) initiative which aims to develop technology for a future regenerative life support system for long-term human space missions, and focuses on trying to create self-contained ecosystems that recycle all waste products, which could ultimately facilitate deep space travel.
Throughout the work, Lucy will be a Citizen Scientist, participating in the Astro Plant project where members of the public across the world can play a part in ESA research – growing their own plants in a special environment and reporting findings back to the ESA.
Commenting on the project Lucy said: “This is such an unusual project, I’m incredibly excited to get started and showcase the mind-blowing work being done! The results could have a huge impact on the ESA’s ongoing work into space travel, plus a wider impact on sustainability and food consumption on Earth. It’s such a rare opportunity and I’m honoured to be part of it.”
Lucy will be exploring how food can be grown in space, but also researching how to make it appetising given the impact that gravity, or lack of, has on taste. She explained: “From the effect it has causing the tongue to swell, zero gravity hugely affects the taste of food. I’ll be working with the ESA and chef Mike Keen, to report on the challenges of feeding astronauts in space. We’ll also be working with the ESA chefs to look at how three Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse created recipes for the ISS, and then using these findings to create new recipes based on the ingredients available on the space station.”
Lucy will be visiting the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands and the ESA facility in Barcelona. Whilst there, she will be filming in the Columbus module, a replica of the International Space Station (ISS), and interviewing key members of the ESA team. Lucy’s work with the ESA will feature on all the She Grows Veg channels, including her Instagram, YouTube and Facebook pages.