13 Nov 2020
This is the challenge facing the SpaceBakery project, a unique consortium composed of seven Belgian organisations and led by the global bakery, pastry and chocolate expert Puratos. However, before they use their research to help feed the first people on the red planet later this century, the project aims to have a clear impact on Earth today. The project will focus on how we can produce food in a more sustainable way and will help provide a nutritional staple food for many regions across the globe. The consortium has just been awarded a new subsidy of 4.5 million euros, contributing to a total of over 6.3 million euros in funding.
Four large interconnected containers have be installed at Puratos’ headquarters near Brussels, Belgium. From the outside they may seem ordinary, but in 2020 researchers will start working in the enclosed ecological plant cultivation system and bakery. What they discover could have a huge impact on our food production on Earth, as well as on Mars once humans launch their space exploration efforts.
Using the impressive plant cultivation infrastructure, researchers from the seven members of the consortium will learn how to create the ideal environment for the efficient production of wheat crops, as well as other plants that could be included in bread to increase its nutritional value. But, why focus on bread? Because it is highly nutritional and consumed all over the world, making it an ideal candidate as a staple food for space exploration.
The environment on Mars is very different from ours on Earth; the lack of atmosphere, cold temperatures and dust storms don’t provide the right conditions for crop growth. It’s for this reason that the research will take place in the coupled containers, a closed and self-sustainable system in which the climate can be adapted to make it suitable for crop growth, with optimal use of resources.
In parallel to the research on crops, the consortium will also study many other aspects involved in the entire food production cycle, such as the use and recycling of resources, the monitoring of microbial climate, influence of radiation, and pollination through automated drones. The consortium is led by Puratos, an international producer of ingredients and innovative solutions for the bakery, pastry and chocolate sector, headquartered in Belgium. Their century-long expertise in bread-making and innovation will be key as food consumed on Mars or on Earth must be nutritional - and also tasty.