A group of researchers at the Neumayer-Station III have harvested a crop of vegetables grown in Antarctica, paving the way for such produce to be grown in space.
Antarctica is one of the most hostile places on Earth. As a result, it comes as no surprise that food does not grow there. However, in the new research the scientists managed to get full-grown, edible vegetables without using daylight, pesticides, or even soil.
While that may sound surprising, the team behind the new crop reports they grew 8 pounds of salad greens, cucumbers, and radishes on the icy continent. They managed to do that by using a new high-tech greenhouse, ZME Science reports.
To grow the vegetables, researchers used a closed-water system. Not only did that allow the plants to grow without soil, they also flourished safe and warm as the temperatures outside the greenhouse plummeted to -4 degrees Fahrenheit. The scientists also avoided using any outside light during the growing process. Rather, they optimized a special LED system while carefully monitoring carbon dioxide levels.
This new process is important because, while researchers do not plan to open farms on Antarctica any time soon, it could help astronauts get or grow food on distant, hostile planets. It would also enable space explorers to eat on spaceships or during any long distance travel.
The crop is a great start, but the team thinks even more is on its way. The German Aerospace Center DLR, which coordinated the project, reports that they expect to harvest 8 to 9 pounds of fruit and vegetables per week in the coming months.
Though NASA has already implemented a similar growing system to get vegetables on the International Space Station, the DLR hopes to be able to grow a much wider range of produce. They want to get a more bountiful harvest as well.