Space exploration technology is being used in a Canadian laboratory to unlock the ‘holy grail’ of medicinal cannabis, the ACannabis EVOLVE conference will hear next week.

Using a range of high-tech processes in specialist growing chambers – technology which has underpinned research into growing food crops on Mars – scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario have been cultivating cannabis in order to produce the perfect plant.

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An inner canopy lighting experiment at the research facility standardised the medicinal compounds in all the buds

Mike Dixon, professor and director at Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, will tell the conference how the research into cannabis mirrors its work for the Canadian Space Agency.

“We’ve spent a lot of time trying to standardise the profile of nutritional compounds in food crops. Food determines how far away from earth we can go and how long we can stay,” he says.

The research, he adds, is not unlike the experiments featured in sci-fi movie The Martian, where stranded astronaut Matt Damon is forced to grow his own plants to keep himself alive.

Now the challenge is underway to bring that same standardisation of food crops to medicinal compounds in cannabis plants.

“The technical challenges of going into space and growing plants for human life support achieve many of the solutions that we need for growing plants in challenging environments here on earth,” Dixon says.

“A lot of the technologies are totally applicable to harsh environments like Canada’s north or the deserts of the Middle East.”

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...