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How learning to farm on other planets could help us on our own

Growing food on inhospitable planets may no longer be the stuff of fiction, such as in the Disney film Wall-e.

“There is actually a lot of crossover.” Says Gioia Massa, NASA researcher, of both techniques used in urban farms and their research.

By Danielle Crowley
Farmer’s Journal
06 August 2017


This October, a shipping container called Eden ISS will arrive at the Neumayer III polar station in Antarctica. The plan is to grow around 40 different plants in it, such as basil and strawberries. While not the first greenhouse on Antarctica, this one has a special purpose. Space agencies will be monitoring it in order to get an idea of the challenges that must be overcome to grow food in a harsh, inhospitable environment. The one in mind – Mars.

With NASA hoping to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, figuring out how to provide colonists with food is a major priority, especially as it would cost an estimated $1bn per person per year to send food to them.

Growing food would not be as easy. Martian soil, or regolith, contains many toxic chemicals which would have to be removed before anything could grow there. The soil wouldn’t contain any beneficial microbes, so current ideas suggest removing the harmful substances and then seeding the soil with genetically engineered microbes, possibly even before the colonists arrive, with the help of “farm bots”.

Read the complete article here.