The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently announced the four finalists for the Deep Space Food Challenge after narrowing it down from a substantial and diverse group of semi-finalists.
The Deep Space Food Challenge according to the CSA is “a competition to develop new technologies to produce food for future space missions while expanding opportunities for food production on Earth.”
The challenge now enters the third phase whereby teams will have 12 months to build a full system demonstration. The challenge winner will be announced in the spring of 2024. The winner will receive a $380,000 grant. The Deep Space Food Challenge is an initiative of the Government’s Impact Canada and the Canadian Space Agency. A similar challenge is being held in the U.S. by NASA. The CSA stated that although there will be one winner, that “other non-monetary benefits may be offered to” other participants.
The four finalists are:
McGill University / McGill Advanced bio-Regenerative Toolkit for Long Excursion Trips (MARTLET)
- Cricket Rearing, Collection, and Transformation System – This system will start astronauts with a few hundred eggs of crickets, with the aim of producing a protein-rich source of food given the ultimate result would be tens of thousands of crickets a month. The crickets, incidentally, would be kept entirely separate from astronaut living quarters using tools such as filters, vacuum systems and UVC lamps.
Ecoation Innovative Solutions Inc.
- CANGrow Modular Indoor Food Production System – Much like the current plant studies on the International Space Station, this system aims to grow a variety of edible fruits and vegetables for astronauts to eat: strawberries, cherry tomatoes, two root vegetables, microgreens, four unique culinary herbs, mini-head lettuce, an algae superfood, and a mycelial meat substitute nicknamed “space bacon.” The system is described as a modular polyculture (or many types of food) production system, although few details about it are described beyond saying it has “novel technologies.”
University of Guelph
- Canada – Growth Options for Outer Space Environments (GOOSE) – This is described as a plant-growth chamber that is also expected to produce fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. It contains environment control technology with the aim to achieve “homogeneous conditions”, which would in turn produce high-density crops for food production.
- AstroYeast Microfarm: Space-adapted Nutrient and Flavour Factory – Concordia is developing a yeast stain optimized for space, which it calls AstroYeast: University materials indicate that AstroYeast is being developed for factors such as microgravity and in the future, to include extra nutrients such as vitamin A or ideal flavour profiles for astronauts. The yeast will be delivered in an automated bioreactor system.