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Published: 5 Dec 2018

Bioreactor Set to Make Food on Mars for Future Colonies

Extra
Solar Foods

Discussion around climate-change-driven food shortages and the possibility of colonising other planets has begun to permeate mainstream discussion, and scientists are seeking ways to feed people using alternative, low-impact methods. One such example is Lappeenranta University of Technology’s (LUT) bioreactor, which is capable of creating food using air and electricity.

As covered by Stylus, researchers at the university discovered a way to make a synthetic, edible, high-protein powder using water, carbon and microbes last year. Now they've teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) and launched a company called Solar Foods, creating a bioreactor capable of producing this edible protein on Mars. The project has also received more than €2m in funding.

"The conditions in Mars colonies are very different from those on Earth, but they have sunshine, and there are huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere," said Kimmo Isbjörnssund, manager at ESA Business Incubation Centre Finland. "The pioneering technology of Solar Foods enables a new way of producing food even in closed spaces. We assume that ingredients available at the Mars base can be used with the new technology."

The development also has exciting implications closer to home. This method of production could be used in areas where food is scarce due to poor farming conditions or drought, without putting pressure on existing resources. The bioreactors may even find their way into the home kitchen, allowing consumers to create their own sustainably sourced sustenance. See Self-Sustaining Spaces for more inspiration.

For more thinking on sustainable food production and how we'll feed ourselves in the future, see New Architecture of Taste and Feeding Tomorrow's Consumers.

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