Beneath the burden of the pandemic lockdowns, meals safety consultants Lenore Newman and Evan Fraser launched into a thought experiment. Utilizing their analysis of improvements on earth, they determined to determine what it will take to feed a human colony on Mars within the 12 months 2080.

Each Fraser and Newman took inspiration from what’s already been developed right here on planet earth to check their Martian colony. From greenhouse applied sciences to nanotechnologies, they foresee the potential of a wise, tasty and well-balanced eating regimen on Mars — together with tremendous cheeses, scotch and sashimi. 

Newman and Fraser are co-authors of Dinner on Mars: The Applied sciences that can feed the Purple Planet and Rework Agriculture on Earth. They spoke to IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed concerning the classes they realized on tips on how to enhance our battered meals methods on Earth.

Right here is an excerpt from their dialog.

What’s it that impressed this complete dinner on Mars thought experiment within the first place? 

EF: Properly, it was March twentieth or so, 2020. And I used to be — like all people else on the planet — a combination of anxious, scared, bored and terrified about this yawning hole that opened up in entrance of me. 

As I recall, Lenore, I began texting you and [said], ‘I feel fascinating issues are taking place, however I am actually bored and I am scared. What do you suppose?’ And one textual content each different day led to 30 or 40 texts an hour, and led to a dialog that was primarily, ‘nicely, we will not journey wherever bodily, however perhaps there’s someplace we are able to go to in our creativeness.’ 

This was on the level the place Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have been blasting off of their rockets — and so everybody was speaking about house exploration. We thought perhaps we must always simply think about a foolish imagining: what would a dinner be like if we ever made it to Mars?

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson drinks champagne after flying into house — a voyage he described because the ‘expertise of a lifetime.’ He hopes to usher in an period of profitable house tourism. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP by way of Getty Photos)

In some unspecified time in the future, after about six weeks of this, we realized this wasn’t a foolish train anymore. It was lethal severe as a result of we have been speaking about actual science, actual points. After which we have been beginning to apply the teachings that we have been imagining being performed out on Mars. We began imagining how they could rework meals methods right here on Earth. And that is the place issues obtained actually each thrilling and severe in that we aren’t solely imagining how we’ll maintain a brand new technology of exploration outdoors of this, the planet that we name dwelling, but in addition how we have to change how we eat right here on Earth. 

Evan, if you happen to do not thoughts, paint an image of how inefficient the worldwide system is now for creating meals. 

EF: So proper now, we have a really paradoxical state of affairs on the degree of meals safety. Now we have this bizarre world the place each the variety of hungry and the variety of overweight individuals are rising on the planet. In order that’s a loopy statistic in and of itself. 

After which there’s the environmental prices at a world degree of our meals system. Meals is the primary driver in our shedding struggle to guard biodiversity. Meals is the world’s largest consumer of freshwater and the biggest supply of water air pollution. Meals creates our agri-food methods, creates a couple of third of the world greenhouse gases, and we waste a couple of third of the world’s meals…So that you add all these issues up collectively and also you suppose there needs to be a extra environment friendly method of doing this stuff. And it is that kind of feeling of what might the choice be? That led Lenore and I to suppose, ‘nicely, perhaps if we imagined a meals system on Mars, we’ll unlock some options for right here on Earth.’

So I am offered on the concept. I am imagining the scene that you simply’re creating, however logistically, how is it even attainable, Evan? Describe to me the situations on Mars that you simply’d should take care of in organising this Martian colony? 

EF: Properly, I imply, it’ll be actually onerous to feed a group on Mars, there is no query in any respect. On one hand, you could have just about no water, and what little water is, it’s frozen into the regolith — that is a elaborate phrase for primarily Martian grime. It is sort of like permafrost does not have a direct analogy however we could say there’s some water crystals frozen within the soil.

There’s carbon dioxide within the ambiance. There’s method an excessive amount of photo voltaic radiation, however not sufficient photo voltaic power as a result of Mars is lots farther from the solar than Earth, so there’s much less heat there. So it will get actually chilly and you do not have what’s referred to as warmth models that vegetation have to flourish. However you’ve got obtained punishing photo voltaic radiation as a result of it does not actually have a robust ambiance that eliminates the radiation. So you’ve got obtained these wild swings in temperatures. It is typically too chilly. You’ve got obtained no natural matter in any respect. You’ve got obtained little or no water and an excessive amount of radiation, however not sufficient photo voltaic power. It is a bit of a catastrophe.

You may’t ship meals to Mars. It is just too far. You may’t get takeout.– Lenore Newman, co-author of

However you do have issues like carbon dioxide and different primary constructing blocks of life. And so I feel once you begin imagining life on Mars, you begin with some kind of algae or cyanobacteria that may eat that regolith, take in some carbon dioxide and in doing so, it would produce natural matter and oxygen. And if you can begin that course of stepping into some kind of tank and scientists on Earth have simulated Martian situations and have gotten cyanobacterias that can eat and flourish below these situations, nicely, you then’ve obtained the essential components on which you’ll be able to construct one thing extra elaborate. 

Lenore, how unhealthy are issues if we’ve got to ponder what may occur on Mars to determine how unhealthy issues are right here at dwelling? 

LN: One of many surprises of the pandemic and one of many not-so-wonderful surprises was how extreme the meals issues grew to become and the way rapidly they did, and that principally the world meals system went into disaster and has remained in disaster ever since. And positively there’s been lots driving that: the pandemic, ongoing and worsening local weather change after which, in fact, battle and political discontent. And what these of us in meals and agriculture have realized is we have most likely left the period the place meals was simple — with “simple” in citation marks. However there have been positively 50 years the place meals obtained cheaper and cheaper and simpler and simpler to acquire to the purpose that lots of people on Earth did not have to consider it very onerous.

Co-authors Lenore Newman and Evan Fraser argue if we are able to work out tips on how to maintain ourselves on Mars we are able to know tips on how to do it on Earth. They discover the logistics to rising meals on the purple planet of their e book, Dinner on Mars. (Images submitted by co-authors/ECW Press)

I feel one of many catalysts for this for me was Elon Musk and his dialogue of a metropolis on Mars sort of brushed apart the meals. Evan and I knew that it was really an enormous query as a result of you may’t ship meals to Mars. It is just too far. You may’t get takeout.

We began to appreciate, thought, that the Earth is changing into much more like Mars in some methods, in that our personal system of takeout in the course of winter, for instance, is breaking down. And as we did this train, we realized fixing these issues for an surroundings the place you haven’t any cushion, the place there isn’t any pure world per say to provide you a hand. You really begin to remedy these issues on Earth as nicely. And that grew to become the driving theme of the e book was plenty of the modifications you want to make to make meals work on Mars really would actually assist us out right here on Earth as nicely.

Lenore, I perceive you’re taking some inspiration from an enormous greenhouse complicated in England referred to as the Eden Challenge. Are you able to inform me about that? 

LN: So I went down a really deep rabbit gap about greenhouses. As a result of the reality is, we do not totally simply farm outdoors on earth, we create little environments for our vegetation. And there have been a couple of very massive experiments to attempt to deliver total ecosystems indoors for numerous causes, for pleasure or for scientific experimentation. And one of many ones that impressed me is that this sequence of domes within the south of England referred to as the Eden Challenge that encloses a sequence of biomes in an previous mining pit. 

The Eden Challenge close to St. Austell, England, covers an space concerning the measurement of 35 soccer fields. The biomes are dwelling to lots of of hundreds of thriving vegetation and timber. (Matt Cardy/Getty Photos)

LN: It is principally for academic functions. It is not a real closed system as a result of they do usher in water and air and such however it does serve to indicate that one can create these little communities of vegetation that assist one another indoors. And we have seen that within the Victorian period. It was very fashionable to create these sort of pleasure domes filled with vegetation and proper again into historical past folks have been obsessive about rising vegetation out of their very own ranges and that always requires greenhouses. 

Friends on this episode (so as of look):

Lenore Newman is director of the Meals and Agriculture Institute on the College of the Fraser Valley and Canada Analysis Chair for Meals Safety and Setting.

Evan Fraser is director of the Arrell Meals Institute on the College of Guelph.

David Harland is chief international progress officer on the Eden Challenge.

Björn Örvar is co-founder and CSO at ORF Genetics in Iceland.

Cher Mereweather is CEO at Anthesis Provision in Guelph, Ontario.


*Q&A edited for clairty and size. This episode was produced by Nicola Luksic.

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