Farming startups are betting on a new market: Mars.
NASA is working hard to bolster its culinary reputation beyond Tang pouches and desiccated ice cream, Modern Farmer reports. Hatch green chiles have already made their way to space. Now, NASA’s recently launched Deep Space Food Challenge is boasting a million-dollar prize for the team that can develop the most viable food technology to help fill meal gaps during three- to four-year space missions. (Any resulting technologies could also improve food access on Earth, the contest website assures us.) Winning designs from the contest’s first phase include a fancy technology similar to 3-D printing and a production system that can grow algae, fungi, and plants. Elsewhere, startups are betting on extraterrestrial frontiers, too: Israel-based Aleph Farms is looking at the impact of zero-gravity environments on cell-cultured meat, and Orbital Farms is developing closed-loop farming systems that can work anywhere. Orbital founder Scot Bryson told the magazine he expects there’ll be a market for the product “fifteen, twenty years from now, when we have large numbers of people living … on Mars.” —H. Claire Brown