On planet Earth, we face the challenge of feeding a rapidly growing population that is set to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. In space, we face the challenge of feeding astronauts traveling through the galaxy for an extended period of time. Novel and innovative food technology could offer viable solutions in both realms.
For the first time ever, NASA and CSA (Canadian Space Agency) have come together this year to host the Deep Space Food Challenge. Companies competing in the challenge must be able to offer a solution to feeding at least four astronauts on a three-year space mission. The solutions should be able to achieve the greatest amount of food output (that is palatable and nutritious) with minimal input and waste. In addition to being used in space, the solution must also improve food accessibility on Earth.
This week, the winners of Phase 1 were announced:
- Astra Gastronomy
- Cosmic Eats
- SIRONA NOMs
- Space Bread
- ALSEC Alimentos Secos SAS
- Electric Cow
- Solar Foods
BIO CULTURE FOODS
- Deep Space Entomoculture
- Mission: Space Food
- Natufia x Edama
- Far Out Foods
- Interstellar Lab
- Kernel Deltech
- Project MIDGE
- Space Lab Cafe
- Enigma of the Cosmos
- JPWORKS SRL
- Team π
Many companies that were selected as Phase 1 winners use technologies that have steadily gained popularity in the food tech space, like 3D printing, using bioreactors for cultured protein, and vertical farming. In-demand “future food” ingredients like fungi, microbes, cultured cells/meat, and insects were also popular amongst competitors.
Out of the 28 winners, here are some of our favorites:
Beehex (Columbus, Ohio) – Some of you may remember Beehex for their work on a 3D pizza printer for NASA. For this competition, Beehex is proposing a UFF (Universal Food Fabricator) which can dehydrate plants and cultured meats into powder form foods, store them into hermetically sealed cartridges for 5+ years, and 3D print with the stored food in cartridges when needed.
Deep Space Entomoculture (Somerville, Massachusetts) – In this company’s proposed food system, dry-preserved insect cells will be brought up into space. Using a suspension bioreactor, the insect cells, along with other ingredients, will be reactivated and used to create traditional meat-like analogs.
Space Bread (Hawthorne, Florida) – As the name aptly suggests, this company’s tech allows for crew members to create bread in space. This food system includes a multifuntional plastic bag that is used to store and combine ingredients, and then bake a roll.
Mission Space Food: This company is making a system that will cultivate meat in space using pluripotent stem cells using cell cryopreservation and bioreactor. The creators say the system can can grow beef as well as be adapted to grow other meats such as pork or lamb.
AMBAR – (Bucaramanga, Colombia) – Operating as a small-scale ecosystem, AMBAR’s growing cabinet contains different compartments for various plants. Within this system, both terrestrial and aquatic are able to be grown for food.
Hefvin (Bethesda, Maryland) – This company produces berries by growing fruit cells in a nutrient rich media. Spherification (the culinary process used to shape liquid into squishy spheres) is used to encase different cells to create a full berry, complete with skin and pulp.
Space Cow: (Germany) – this company makes a system converts CO2 and waste streams straight into food, with the help of a food grade micro-organisms and 3D printing.
Each U.S. winner of Phase 1 has been awarded $25,000 to continue working on their solution and is invited to continue on to the Phase 2 competition.