There are a lot of talks these days about growing food in space. We’re already testing vertical farms and indoor farms on the ISS. So what is this space farming thing, and why are people talking about it? Well, right now, it’s probably best explained with an example. Let’s say you want to grow broccoli. You don’t have space for a garden, so you need to grow it indoors. You need a room where you can grow the broccoli all year round. That’s where vertical farming comes in. The technology works by growing crops in vertical farms exposed to natural light from the top instead of the side like in a garden. In space, you can grow plants the same way. Except that, instead of vertical farms, you need space with microgravity where plants can grow freely instead of being confined to grow horizontally. That’s what’s known as space farming. We’re already growing plants in space. But is it possible to produce meat as well? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
What is space farming?
Space farming is a type of farming that’s done in space. Because microgravity inside the ISS doesn’t allow plants to grow horizontally, scientists use vertical farms to grow crops.
Why is space farming worth trying?
The idea of growing food in space is a controversial one. Many people question the need for it and what good it will do us. But there are some pretty good reasons to try it. First, space farming could be necessary to sustain life on Earth someday. If we get into a situation where we can’t grow enough food on Earth, we need to have another food source somewhere else. We could send plants into space and use other planets to farm animals like cows or chickens (even though they won’t produce meat). Another reason is that growing plants in microgravity might not be as hard as people think it is. We already know that plant cells do well when put in zero gravity environments. So if plant cells can adapt to zero gravity, why couldn’t animal cells? It seems worth experimenting with this idea and seeing what happens when you grow meat in space.
Theoretical benefits of space farming
There are a couple of theoretical benefits to growing food in space. First, the plants and animals that evolved in the area will be free from diseases and pests. Another advantage is that plants and animals can grow more quickly in space than on Earth, so you can grow more food on a smaller plot of land. What are the disadvantages? For starters, there’s not much air or water in space. So while you might grow more food, it would need to be hydroponic (grown without soil), which takes up a lot of room. And if the water runs out, the crops won’t last long without a new supply. Also, it takes up a lot of energy to continually launch supplies into space. So we turn back to the original question: can meat be grown in the area? Theoretically, yes, but practically no one has been able to do it yet.
Theoretical cons of space farming
Theoretical cons of space farming – The food would be expensive – We don’t have the resources to produce enough food – It’s not a sustainable option – Animals may become extinct without natural breeding – It’s impractical as we don’t have enough land on Earth to grow all our food.
Pros and cons of growing meat in space
The aim is to see if they can create a source of food for future humans who set up colonies on the moon or other planets.
The experiment was dreamt up by Aleph Farms, an Israeli company that specializes in growing meat from cells on Earth.
Sceptics, though, say the method is too unstable for astronauts to rely on – and that growing space meat will never be more simple than simply bringing it up from Earth.
Zvika Tamari, who heads Aleph Farms’ space programme, says scientists don’t know whether this can be replicated in zero gravity.
“We know from many previous scientific studies that physiology and biology behave very differently in a microgravity environment… So, we don’t know if these processes of cultivation of meat proliferation can occur in space.”
So, when on 8 April, four men blasted off into space in a SpaceX rocket. On the first private mission to the International Space Station, they brought a small shoebox-sized container carrying animal cells – and everything they needed to grow.
Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe, and Mark Pathy launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, accompanied by former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria. They were due to return to space on Sunday, 24 April, after which the cells will be closely analyzed.