The scientists at Germany’s Neumayer Station III are eating well tonight as something green has been grown in the icy white desert of Antarctica, without the help of sunlight, soil, or pesticides.
Neumayer III’s researchers just harvested their first crop of Antarctica-grown vegetables, picked from a high-tech greenhouse that makes up the centerpiece of their “Eden ISS” project.
The project is testing how plants can grow in hostile places on Earth, like the poles and in deserts.
The first Antarctic harvest is the product of years of work and the shelter of one very special greenhouse. The greenhouse arrived in Antarctica in January 2018.
This Antarctic Eden doesn’t look at all like a traditional greenhouse.
It is housed inside a repurposed, windowless shipping container. It’s accessed through an airlock, fed by its own closed air circulation and filled with artificial purple light.
Within, plants are grown by the method called “aeroponics,” or: without soil or sunlight, plants’ roots are sprayed with nutrients, their leaves illuminated by LED lamps, and the air around them gets filtered of germs and is enriched with carbon dioxide.
For researchers living in Antarctica, the prospect of fresh vegetables will be an exciting change from stations’ usual dependency on planes to deliver fresh food, and reliance on frozen or dried food otherwise.
For interplanetary explorers, the ability to grow food on others worlds could mean the difference between life and death.
The Neumayer crew plans to harvest 4 to 5 kilograms (8.8 to 11 pounds) of fruits and vegetables per week by May of this year.
If all goes according to plan, the experiment will show that astronauts can grow a wider range of vegetables in space and on Mars than those currently cultivated on the International Space Station.
Reference- Futurism, The Verge, The Associated Press, Slate website