Imagine having to go months without an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables. Scientists based in Antarctica know this struggle, which is why engineers at the German Aerospace Center (GAC) are building a high-tech, 135 square-foot indoor farm that can grow an abundance of produce — even when temperatures are -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
The only way to transport food to McMurdo, the US station where the majority of researchers stay, is by plane or ship. Most of the food that is received is dry or frozen. During the summer, the scientists may receive one shipment of fresh food once a week, according to Atlas Obscura. Fortunately, that is about to change.
The Eden-ISS is already under construction and will grow food for all who are stationed at the Neumayer III polar station on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf. The greenhouse will be in a climate-controlled shipping and produce will be grown utilizing vertical gardening technology. When the farm is complete, between 30 and 50 different species of plants — including leafy greens, peppers, radishes, strawberries, tomatoes and zesty herbs — will be grown on trays or hanging modules.
Because of Antarctica’s climate, the plants are fed by LED lights rather than sunlight. This is actually a good thing, as the researchers have tuned the lights to red and blue wavelengths that are optimal for growing produce.
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Business Insider reports that the Eden-ISS will be completed in October. The infrastructure is ready to go; the engineers are just waiting for the shipment of supplies which will arrive next month. Reportedly, the GAC team grew its first cucumber (which measured 96 grams and was 14 centimeters long) inside Eden-ISS in July. In Bremen, Germany, GAC has already been testing growing produce in a climate-controlled environment. Next month, GAC scientist Paul Zabel will move to Antarctica and grow produce under 42 LED lamps.
Because sub-Arctic regions have experienced an agricultural boon partly due to climate change, the researchers are pumping in excess carbon dioxide to help the plants thrive. The temperature is always set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the GAC team succeeds at building a greenhouse that can grow crops even when it is -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, researchers will be able to use the same system to help astronauts grow food in space. Considering Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — two of the most brilliant minds of our time — are intent on moving humans to the moon or Mars, this technology could come in handy.
+ DLR German Aerospace Center
Via Business Insider
Images via DLR German Aerospace Center
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