When you think of where to find the freshest ingredients for your Caesar Salad, well you probably did not think about Antarctica. German scientists had a different plan though as they have just eaten their first batch of cucumbers, radishes, and lettuce. All grown organically in their new Antarctic greenhouse – fresh vegetables on the frozen continent. This is a big first for the teams that research on the Antarctic, where the harsh conditions make moving supplies a difficult expedition.
The manager at the Neumayer station III(a German research facility in Antarctica) put out a statement that cleared all worries surrounding taste:
“It tasted as if we had harvested it fresh from the garden,” – Bernhard Gropp
Back in February, they installed a shipping container to be used as a greenhouse, a food growing lab that they dubbed EDEN ISS. It is a mission to help serve isolated colleagues with food. But this is not only for the harsh frozen region of Antarctic. This project is to study and design the best methods to cultivate crops for astronauts. The research has been funded by the German Aerospace Center.
Space-grown plants could be the future for all space missions, allowing astronauts to eat real food and stay on their missions longer. It could even provide the basis for colonizing other planets! Far distances like the Moon or Mars make delivering supplies completely impractical.
The Antarctic greenhouse is the perfect test zone because its harsh conditions would be much like growing vegetables in space. There is no soil and no natural sunlight, so it has to work in a completely contained and closed off system. In fact, the systems used in the greenhouse can even be remotely managed from Europe. So far they have been able to collect 70 radishes, 18 cucumbers and 3.6 kilograms of lettuce; an astonishing haul for the conditions this vegetable patch finds itself in.
Next up are tomatoes and there are several small ones growing on vines, so it looks promising. The goal is to cultivate about 5 kg of fresh vegetables every week.