Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Gardening in Space

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Gardening in Space

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

NASA experiments use Sarasota man's fertilizer

Ed Rosenthal grew up farming with his father outside of Montreal, but he never intended to stay in agriculture. Farming was tough and memories of his childhood were filled with empty refrigerators. Rosenthal studied to be an English professor, but when anti-English sentiments in Quebec made it impossible for him to find a job teaching English in the French region, he landed back where he started: agriculture.

Rosenthal's return to agriculture proved fortuitous.

He founded Florikan, a Sarasota fertilizer company, in 1982. His son Eric now runs the company, which exports more than $30 million worth of unique fertilizers each year to growers in Arcadia, Chile, Turkey, China, and now, outer space.

Last May, NASA selected Florikan's Nutricote fertilizer for a veggie plant growth system installed in the International Space Station.

NASA chose a variation of the company's Nutricote fertilizer line to be used in experiments on the Space Station, where astronauts are growing red romaine lettuce to test how plants grow in space. On Wednesday, NASA approved the use of Florikan fertilizer for a leafy green and dwarf tomato growth initiative.

Astronauts are also growing nonedible flowers to test for potentially harmful microbes, single-cell organisms, that might grow on plants in space. Rosenthal's firm, Florikan, developed technology that is able to control the timing of nutrients being released to the plants regardless of external conditions like, heat, cold or, say, the lack of gravity. Their products are durable even in hot climates and take effect over defined periods of time.

"It provided all the nutrients for our plants to grow well," said Gioia Massa, team lead on NASA's Veggie Science team. "We're growing in very unique conditions."

Rosenthal learned about plant nutrition farming with his father in Canada, and continued to develop his expertise in fertilizers and polymers working for Canadian companies after college. …

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