NASA Smarts Help Coloradans Grow Better Marijuana

A pretty surprising thing happened during the 2012 general election. No, it wasn’t the re-election of Barack Obama. In case you didn’t notice in all the political hoopla, the citizens of two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. We’re not talking about legal gray areas like using weed for medical purposes. We’re talking regulation of marijuana like alcohol–anyone 21 and over is welcome to use, possess, and perhaps most importantly, grow.

Of course, with federal laws concerning marijuana unchanged, some would-be growers find themselves in an awkward spot. That’s where former NASA scientist Dale Chamberlain hopes to help. With most hydroponic suppliers unwilling to take a risk by educating their customers about how to grow marijuana, the Loveland, Colo., resident decided to put his years of research with NASA and other high-tech plant growth chambers to work helping growers produce a superior product.

NASA has long researched hydroponics as a space-ready alternative to traditional soil farming. If we do one day live on space stations or other planetary bodies, it will be essential to have systems for growing food that don’t require traditional combinations of sun, soil, and water. Similarly, Colorado’s new Amendment 64 requires that all weed growing operations must exist in indoor, locked rooms.

Chamberlain, who holds a Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado – Boulder, spent many years designing and building plant growth chambers flown on the Space Shuttles, and feels that his knowledge could help guide Colorado’s newest crop of hydroponic farmers.

The former NASA employee recently established the High Altitude School of Hydroponics, or HASH. “The dazzling array of Hydroponic types and requirements can be overwhelming,” states the school’s website. “Mistakes are costly. Pests and diseases are all around waiting to eat what’s yours.  Problems can cause fires, water damage, destroy crops or after a long wait – an inferior harvest not worth the time.” Since Coloradans can’t turn to their local agricultural extension office for this advice (they’re still too worried about the Feds) it’s time for private citizens to pick up the slack, says Chamberlain.

HASH’s weekend workshops and master classes are designed to help growers understand hydroponic principles, select or build the hydroponic system that’s right for their needs, and establish a grow cycle that will produce maximum yields.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog