NASA-CSA Webinar 3: Solving for Earth

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ANGELA HERBLET: Hi everyone, thank you for joining the Solving for Earth webinar. This is the third webinar in the Deep Space Food Challenge webinar series. My name is Angela Herblet and I am the NASA Challenge Manager for the Deep Space Food challenge, and will also be your facilitator for today's webinar. Before we get started, I'd like to hand things over to my colleague from the Canadian Space Agency, Clélia Cothier, to give instructions on how to access today's live presentation in French, so Clélia go ahead.

CLÉLIA COTHIER: Bienvenue à tous. Merci d’être avec nous pour ce troisième webinaire sur le Défi de l’alimentation dans l’espace lointain.  Cet événement Zoom est proposé avec interprétation simultanée. Afin d’accéder au webinaire en français, il vous suffit de sélectionner la langue “français” dans le menu “Interprétation”.  Si vous utilisez un ordinateur, vous trouverez l'icône d'interprétation au bas de votre écran.  Si vous utilisez une tablette ou un téléphone, touchez l’écran, Plus, Interprétation et enfin “français”.  Merci, Bon webinaire! 

ANGELA HERBLET: Great, thank you so much!  Next slide please.

ANGELA HERBLET: So what we'd like to do today is first go over some rules of conduct, to get us kicked off, and then we'd like to remind you all what the Deep Space Food Challenge is.  Some of you may have joined our first two webinars, but for those audience members that are new to us today, we'd like to give you an overview of what we're doing and why in the hopes that you will participate in and help us solve these important challenges.  We’ll then introduce our moderator and panelists who will briefly tell you about their organizations and the communities that they serve. And then we'll dive into what is sure to be a very interesting panel discussion. And finally, we'll wrap up and give instructions on how you can follow and participate in the challenge.

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ANGELA HERBLET: So before we get started, the recording and transcript of this webinar will be available on the challenge site, and it will also be made available in French on the Canadian website on Impact Canada.  During the presentation and during the panel discussion, you're able to ask questions of any of the panelists. So please type those into the Q&A chat box at the bottom, and we will work as many as we can into the discussion.  Specific questions about a proposed solution to the challenge or a team's eligibility to participate, will not be answered during our webinar today. However, any of those questions can be submitted to the email addresses, shown here.  And finally, please be respectful of your questions and your conversations and also your comments in the chat box.

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ANGELA HERBLET: So let's dive in!.  Before I pass things over to our moderator. I will give a brief overview of the Deep Space food challenge and what has brought us all together today.

As we look back on the history of space exploration international collaborations have been key. In the same way the Deep Space Food Challenge is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency in support of the space policies of both the United States Government and the Government of Canada.  Our two agencies have come together to run parallel competitions around the important topic of food for the benefit of both space exploration missions and potential impacts here on Earth. So during the development process of the challenge, NASA and CSA coordinated on the challenge design and agreed upon the challenge statement, goals and assessment criteria.  When it comes to executing the challenge, NASA and CSA each manage their own rules document, applicant guide, prize purse and eligibility criteria.  It's important to note that CSA has no responsibility in the NASA led challenge.  And likewise NASA has no responsibility and the CSA led challenge.

You can see here the goal of the Deep Space Food Challenge is to create novel food production technologies or systems that require minimum inputs and maximize safe, nutritious and palatable food outputs for a long duration space missions, which also have the potential to benefit people on earth.  In Phase 1 of the challenge, which is open now, competitors are required to generate a robust design for a novel food production system. The NASA rules document and the CSA applicant guide offer outlines of the constraints and criteria for these designs.  We are not looking for a larger food system that will fill every single nutritional need of the crew, but rather pieces of an overall system that will significantly contribute to the comprehensive food system.  Key dates are also shown here. For U.S. and international teams the deadline for registration closes on May 28; then submissions are due for all teams on July, 30, with the phase one winners being announced in September of 2021.

So there are three tracks that teams can select to compete in. One is the NASA prize which will award up to $500,000 US dollars in total prize purse to up to 20 teams that meet the eligibility criteria.  The Canadian Space Agency will award $300,000 Canadian dollars in grant funding, with up to 10 teams each receiving $30,000 each, and an invitation to be semifinalists entering into Phase 2 of the challenge.  And the teams that are competing for that must meet the unique eligibility requirements from the Canadian Space Agency as well.  For those that do not meet the eligibility requirements of the NASA prize, or the Canadian Space Agency prize. There is a recognition prize that will recognize the top 10 international teams chosen by both NASA and CSA.  The specific eligibility requirements for each prize track can be found in the NASA rules document and also the CSA applicant guide.

So now let's talk about our goals for today. So when designing challenges like the Deep Space Food Challenge, it's important that we not only look for technologies and innovations that will push the boundaries of technology for space, but that we also take the opportunity to see how those technologies and innovations can make positive impacts here on Earth.  When designing a food production system for space, solvers and innovators have to figure out how to work with limited resources, create minimal waste, and produce maximum amount of nutritious and tasty foods.  And since these same constraints and challenges exist on Earth, we included in the scoring criteria for the challenge that teams must bring forward potential terrestrial applications of their technologies.  We did this intentionally to inspire the teams to really think about how they can improve things on our home planet.  To borrow a statement from one of our amazing panelists that you'll hear from shortly, you can't effectively implement an innovation, unless you first understand the problem. And that's what brings us here today.  You can see in the discussion points here that will be talking about food security challenges on earth, and what's being done to address them. We’ll also talk about what impacts innovations from initiatives like the Deep Space Food Challenge could mean for communities around the world.  And as you listen to the panelists and send your questions in, we hope you'll be thinking more about the communities you'll hear about, better understand the need for innovation, and also how you can be involved and help.

And now it is my pleasure to get us kicked off by introducing our esteemed moderator for the discussion today, Dr. Alyssa Whitcraft. Alyssa is the Deputy Director and Manager for NASA Harvest, which works to enable in advance adoption of Satellite Earth Observations by public and private organizations to benefit food security agriculture and human and environmental resiliency in the U.S. and worldwide.  So Alyssa I will turn things over to you to tell us a little more about yourself and to introduce the panelists.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Great, thank you so much. As Angela mentioned, I am the Deputy Director and Program Manager of NASA Harvest which is NASA's Food Security and Agriculture Program as a part of the Applied Sciences Program under Earth Science Division. So we really focus on the challenges that we're facing here on Earth.  But the challenges that we face here on Earth are uniquely human and will persist no matter where we go. So I'm excited about the integrated nature of this challenge.

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ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: We have three awesome panelists today bringing you the different perspectives that I think will really enrich everyone's understanding and ability to answer this challenge.

The first one is Merlyn Recinos. He's the Vice President of Business Development for Arctic Fresh. He's an experienced business professional and entrepreneur with over 20 years of retail management experience. Merlyn also has over 5 years of experience as a business advisor, capacity building trainer, and entrepreneurship mentor. Merlyn started his first business at the age of 8, selling fresh fruit and snacks to members of his community. Merlyn moved to Nunavut at the age of 20 and began a rewarding retail experience, moving from supervisor to General Manager with local stores. He eventually left this role to start Arctic Fresh Inc with his partner Rhoda Angutimarik. After getting Arctic Fresh started, Merlyn left the company to focus on building personal and entrepreneurship capacity in his home community of Igloolik. Merlyn is currently the Mayor for Municipality of Igloolik. Beyond his job, Merlyn sits at various boards across Nunavut, Merlyn is very invested in the community of Igloolik, and volunteers an average of 600 hours per year to build capacity and help people start businesses, gain employment, learn about cooking, learn to drive and other essential skills. Merlyn is going to give us a brief introduction to our Arctic Fresh and give some perspectives on the unique challenges that his community is facing.  Thank you.

MERLYN RECINOS: Hi everyone. My name is Merlyn Recinos.  If we can go to the next slide perfect - I am the Vice President of Business Development for Arctic Fresh.  

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MERLYN RECINOS: Perfect. So Arctic Fresh is an Inuit social enterprise based out of Igloolik, and our mandate are to fight food insecurity, create local capacity by empowering individuals and communities.  So, we are created in the North and so we're created in Igloolik which is a remote community in Nunavut in the High Arctic.  So we think outside the box to solve problems and we view issues to partnerships and solutions integrating local Inuit knowledge and available technology.

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MERLYN RECINOS: We are driven by innovation. So we operate in the High Arctic as I had mentioned.  And so we utilize a lot of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit knowledge into what we do.  Some of the things we do are retail, wholesale logistics, sealift for innovation, new construction, consulting and building capacity.  So our whole mandate is to fight food insecurity.  And as we develop the company, we realized food insecurity is just like a shirt, not all the same size fits everybody.  So we needed to look at different levels, so this is by creating employment, creating capacity, but our main driver, our main focus is to have food sovereignty and autonomy for our communities in the Arctic.  Which is a little bit of a challenge environment for the fact that, you know, for most of the year, our temperatures are between negative 30 and negative 65. And that's Celsius, by the way.  So, which really has impact into what we grow and how we grow it. 

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MERLYN RECINOS: So, you know, our mandate fighting food insecurity, this is what we do.  So this is our mandate, this is how can we provide food and food sovereignty to our communities and our children. And Nunavut is a place that is very food insecure, and so this is what we're trying to solve is how do we solve the food security challenges that are faced in our communities today.

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MERLYN RECINOS: So, again we do this by looking at what we have. So you know it's all about the community and so we are solving the problem by providing groceries into our communities, by also partnering up with hunters and harvesters and providing that local harvest Food back into our communities. And we do that in many different ways, so you know we run retails and many other things and, you know, this is just some example of things that we do.  

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MERLYN RECINOS: So we work with different partners, and this is some of the business and capacity that we have helped build in in our communities.  This is just a quick example of small businesses that we have developed.  And it's all about empowering and it's all about understanding and co-creating with our communities. 

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MERLYN RECINOS: So when we talk about our communities and we talk about space, so we face similar challenges which is how do we grow food, how do we maintain and sort of develop systems that are able to operate in a very rugged climate and challenges. And so we do that by working together, and being innovative. 

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MERLYN RECINOS: And we can move to the end. So thank you so much in, and really looking forward to the conversation.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Thank you so much Merlyn, that was fascinating, and I look forward to learning more about your program when we enter the Q&A discussion.

Next up, we have Dr. Kirsten Johnson, who is a part of Food Security Monitoring and Evaluation at USAID. (US Agency for International Development). She's a social scientist, serving in USAID’s Bureau for Resilience Food Security and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, which work to increase smallholder farmer resilience, agricultural productivity, water and food security and nutrition. In collaboration with NASA Harvest, she leads the effort in her Bureau to integrate the use of Earth observations data throughout their work.  Key areas of interest are drought and flood monitoring, risk assessment, and improved crop area and yield statistics.  She has led innovative developments in the integration of NASA’s satellite remote-sensing data into large population-based surveys to explore associations among climate, environment, and health and nutrition outcomes.  Her work is grounded in two decades of research on topics including climate change and biodiversity, maternity and child health and nutrition, socioeconomic inequalities, and infectious disease. Please welcome Kiersten.

KIERSTEN JOHNSON: Thanks so much Alyssa. It's great to be here with this great group of people. Thanks also to NASA and the Canadian Space Agency for inviting us to talk about the work that we do at USAID, and how the innovations that emerged from the Deep Space Food Challenge could one day contribute to improving food security here on Earth.

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KIERSTEN JOHNSON: So, let's start with defining our terms.  So, how does USAID define food security? Food Security means having at all times both physical access and economic access to enough food for people to meet their dietary needs for a healthy and productive life.  Seems fairly straightforward, but really it's not because every night an estimated 700 million people go to bed hungry.  And talking only about children now, when children experience prolonged hunger and undernutrition their growth slows down they can become stunted, they're more likely to become sick and possibly even die.  And so right now, an estimated 144 million children around the world are stunted because of poor nutrition. So, where, you know, how do we have all of this food and security? Food insecurity is oftentimes grounded in poverty.  And it has this two-way relationship with poverty. So, poverty leads to food insecurity, when people don't have the economic resources to grow or access in the market enough food to eat.  But then food insecurity, over the long term can then exacerbate poverty, because it has negative impacts on human health, on children's cognitive development, and on people's ability to be productive to do productive work. So food insecurity is really a critical challenge of our times. And it's also a challenge that's exacerbated by changing climate and loss of biodiversity.

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KIERSTEN JOHNSON: But as we know, in every challenge we can always find opportunity and USAID is seizing the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of millions of children all over the world. So the idea is that through improving agriculture, countries can reduce poverty, they can reduce food insecurity and undernutrition. And so by improving that nutrition, 45% of child deaths could be prevented. Just as one example of benefits that we could derive from improving agriculture in the countries where we work.

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KIERSTEN JOHNSON: And so our Bureau, the Bureau for Resiliency and Food Security at USAID really contributes in this area. The goal is to reduce, to sustainably reduce poverty and to reduce food and water and security.  And we do this by supporting economic prosperity that's grounded in the agriculture sector.  Through nutrition-focused programming by enhancing water security.  And finally by supporting resilience overall.  And resilience is a kind of, we define it as the ability of people to adapt to and recover from major shocks that they might experience.  For example, things like droughts, floods, conflicts, epidemics. So really strengthening people's capacities to recover.

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KIERSTEN JOHNSON: How do we work in this domain?  Our work in agriculture addresses the entire food system, from farms to markets and tables, so it can deliver on Food Security and Nutrition. And I think that this aligns really well with the goal of the Deep Space Food Challenge which is to create novel food production technologies or systems that require minimal inputs for maximizing safe nutritious food.  

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KIERSTEN JOHNSON: So some of our cross cutting priorities, we infer equitable inclusive development, engagement with private sector partners, support for research and innovation, and then measuring our progress - are we catalyzing the intended results? And a great example of how we put these cross-cutting priorities into action is through the innovative work that we're doing with NASA Harvest for example.  We use earth observations data from satellites to inform the design and monitoring and evaluation of our programs and the places where we work.  And if you can go to one more slide, it just shows the countries where our Bureau is working. Thank you.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Thank you so much Kiersten.  Appreciate the introduction to the really important work that you do at USAID.

Our third panelist is Olivier Demers-Dubé, who is the Senior Advisor for Innovation and Strategic Business Development at Zone Agtech.  Olivier has invested over 10 years of his career as an entrepreneur in agrotechnology, designing and developing integrated food production systems and technologies. He specializes in novel food production technologies, circular economy and corporate social responsibility. Over the past decade he has designed, built and operated many food production systems, including the first aquaponics vertical farm in Quebec (Canada) and one of the firsts in Canada. Olivier has dedicated his academic and professional career tailoring positive socioeconomical and environmental impact approaches and measures for the agricultural system.  Okay. Please take it away.

OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Hi. Thanks so much, Alyssa.  Hi everyone, my name is Olivier Demers-Dubé I'm Senior Innovation Advisor for Zone Agtech. 

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OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: So Zone Agtech is Canada's first agtech innovation zone. Its mission is to group, boost and promote Quebec and Canada's agtech and agri-based bio products companies, through a single business area, where all the levers and condition for success are brought together to intensify the development of innovative technologies in agriculture. And we've elected to do this through three verticals; first being to help growers adapt to climate change. Secondly, to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture.  And last but not least, to improve overall food autonomy.

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OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Obviously, all of this needs to be done with some sense of urgency felt and experienced strongly by farmers, mainly through water shortages and water quality alteration; increasing and unpredictable drought periods; with increasing harmful and meteorological events; experiencing also labor shortages and specialized work for scarcity; and new and emerging pests.

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OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: So how do we do that?  We do that by making innovation count, and making innovation count by bridging the gaps. In an innovation process gaps can be multiple, but they can basically be boiled down to two aspects.  First gap being the understanding of farmers’ needs and making sure every innovation is tailored to a very real reality that they are feeling. And the second one is making sure that companies that develop these innovations have all the readily available tools to make sure that the commercialization of that idea is efficient.  So idea plus commercialization equals innovation.  And it's the bring that 15 year period, that is usually the time spent to develop a clean tech as close as possible to zero, even though that's quite a challenge.

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OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: So, out of the many things we do innovation-wise, here's one. This is how we value we mobilize our network we've created with CSA, and our partner at Bioenterprise. Our first mapping of the Canadian agtech and food ecosystem to make sure that we really have all the stakeholders mapped out to catalyze these very singular innovations so that they answer the needs for the community. Amongst other projects we collaborate in large-scales initiatives to address (for instance) energy efficiency and greenhouse production. We coordinate with partners and funding for AI-driven harvesters, and also coordinate with partners and funding for automated pest control, automated deployments - all really touch on a lot of innovations.

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OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: So all the tools that are available in Zone Agtech, which will be able to come back to a little bit more, is obviously financing, strategic support, a lot of access to knowledge and talent, market access through more than 2500 agricultural producers, and an agtech community building that's going over 200 members right now with a lot of activities every year. 

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OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: What we're excited about through this CSA/NASA Deep Space Food Challenge is obviously working with the best and brightest of the agrifood tech sector to solve this challenge. Bringing agrifood check circular economy to the next level, and actively participating in the trickle-down technology effect of space exploration. Thanks a lot.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Excellent. Thank you. At this point, we're transitioning over to our panel and I see that we’ve received a variety of questions in the Q&A.  I hope that my panelists at this point will have their cameras on so everybody can see them for the discussion.

And I'm just going to kick it off with a general question posed to each of you. And why don't we go in order of presentation so starting with Merlyn.  Can you explain the unique food related problems that your community is facing, and what lessons have you learned thus far that could potentially come to bear on this competition?

MERLYN RECINOS: Yeah. So, the biggest thing that we face is food insecurity.  And is for the reason of the elements. So you know, most of the year we are in a negative temperature. Definitely a lot of winds, a lot of storms, and then the dark season which usually you know, about three to four months. And then we have the sun all summer long. So, it's all of those elements that have really sort of stopped us from becoming food sovereignty.  So to be able to grow our own food and able to have that. So that's really the biggest challenge that we face.  And so we've been trying to solve that by creating systems so we have created key partnerships and right now we're developing, what is called our self-sustaining store.  And what that is a place where we are able to grow our own food, our own vegetables with hydroponics and different systems; we’re able to process and been able to have them locally. And then we partnered that with a container so it’s a modular store that were able to fit to the needs of the community. And then we're bringing in like you know here in Igloolik like we harvest a lot of fish, a lot of seal, a lot of different animals, so we are bringing them in and processing them.  So then we will be able to grow our vegetables and process our meat and make it available to the community at a much reduced cost. So by doing this we you know really reduce the waste and instead of transporting you know from the south into the community. We also reduce, you know, like a carbon and the emissions for global warming. There's no need of transportation. And we're looking at potentially in the future utilizing solar and wind to be able to power these units. And so this is sort of what we're working on.  At the same time we manage many different programs, locally. By utilizing the existing supply chain to be able to develop and see where we can say we can potentially streamline and we can make it better. So we're utilizing the existing supply chains to see how we can innovate it to the 21st century. And then we're also utilizing what innovation to see how we can co-create with our community, something that will give us a little bit more autonomy.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: This is absolutely fascinating, and it sounds like you've got what kind of whole value chain of your of your products that you're developing thinking about how to reduce the cost of your brand and then or reduce the cost by streamlining production your communities. I wonder if Kiersten and Olivier can comment. The same basic question is of course open to you as well but also commenting on the production perspective, and the distribution access issues that were kind of confronting on Earth, in this current era and as we look ahead to a changing climate.

KIERSTEN JOHNSON: Sure. So, you know, on the, on the production side of things, USAID’s gear for resilience and food security and our missions and country tend to work with and prioritize smallholder farmers. So these are farmers that work relatively small plots of land, and may not have access to same kinds of technologies that, for example U.S. farmers have.  There can also be gender inequalities amongst farmers where you can have some male farmers in the places where we work my might have improved access to agricultural technologies, whereas women who produce about half of, you know, agricultural products, actually have less access to those technologies.  So we work in terms of, you know, again, in a number of dimensions, but for example, in research and technologies to improve seed types for example, in ways to help farmers access things like fertilizer in more efficient ways so that the supply chain is not disrupted due two things like, well, as we recently saw with the pandemic, supply chain disruptions for things like seeds and fertilizers.  On the gender front we work to ensure equitable access to, you know, new technologies to trainings and things like regenerative agricultural practices which help you know, produce good quality crops in an intensified fashion so that you have increased production increased yields and kind of an equal or smaller footprint. So there's not as much agricultural intensification which can create its own problems.  So we're working on a number of these fronts, we, you know, collaborate with communities and collaborate with the private sector to help kind of lift the kind of agricultural production and the places where we're working. And, you know, as, as we heard it was Merlyn it's been fascinating to hear about the challenges that you face in the places where you work in the places where our bureau works.  With the majority of the countries where we're currently working are in Sub Saharan Africa and they face different types of challenges like drought. More recently we had in especially in East Africa, a major locust infestation. So there are different types of challenges, and the approach to problem solving and each place has to be has to be tailored. And again, in collaboration with the communities where we work.  Olivier?

OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Yeah, absolutely fascinating to listen to you Merlyn and Kirsten. So, I'd say one of the biggest challenges our community has aside from everything related to climate change is probably climate itself.  Having to produce food for 12 months a year in northern communities or in a geographical sector where you can have a harvest season that is in between six and let's say eight months depending on what you're growing exactly. And that really tailors kind of the challenges that we face. So the question that we have for food autonomy is how much of our own local food can we produce year around. And the answer for that right now is about 50%.  So if we want to move north of 50%, the technology we have to develop is one to allow us to produce 12 months a year. So that has been going in three ways up until now.  So it's been going the way of, you know, more efficient greenhouse production. It's been going the way of, you know, fully indoor production, and also looking at the ways we can extend seasons through different types of culture and food conservation so we can make it year round. So those are the three ways we're kind of developing our technology right now.  But it is challenging because we are in a market where we get a lot of imports year round from hotter countries so our farmers have to compete with these massive amount of food at very cheap prices year round. And with that, winter down period afterwards it's hard to be competitive again when summer arrives, especially considering that since we have a very intensive summer period for harvesting we usually lack labor to do so.  So we're also highly dependent on outside workforce, because agriculture is not as sexy as it used to be, so we do have a scarcity of workforce on that front. So those are some of the challenges that we're that we're facing.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Thank you. So thinking a little bit about sort of some of the technologies that you're utilizing to confront each of the challenges that you've just brought forth. What's really changed how your organization is addressing food security on earth?  And I guess I could invite you all to riff a little bit about how you think it might apply to the space component of this challenge as well. Even though we're all Earth people. I'm going to guess, maybe we do it in reverse this time. Olivier, if it doesn't put you too much on the spot, then we can go in reverse and can keep boomeranging back and forth.

OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Absolutely, my pleasure. And I’m sure many of the challenges we’re facing, Merlyn is probably facing also, having to produce in such northern conditions. So obviously energy efficiency in greenhouses is key. And that's definitely something that applies quite directly to the Deep Space Food Challenge. Also, I don't want to say lighting. So, one of the challenges of producing 12 months a year here, and in space is what kind of light are we going to get and how much energy, what's going to be the energy cost of that lighting, right?  So we're really looking forward to in new generations of lighting I know we're going the way of laser lighting right now which is highly efficient. It's about a 10th of the cost in energy and it's highly efficient. So, we're really looking forward to that. And also, more and more, we're looking at, you know, fully integrated circular economy approaches in food production. And that applies to large scale production, as well as smaller scale production if we go the way of you know permaculture or, or, yeah, that's right. So, I'd say that for now.


KIERSTEN JOHNSON: Sure. Um, so if I had to pick one thing that we work on in our Bureau and in the communities where we have programming, and that might be relevant to the Deep Space Food challenge. I think it would probably be food safety technology. Even if you harvest nutritious crops, if they aren't handled or processed safely, or even if the crop themselves a crop itself has been affected by something like an aflatoxin. Even if it seems like a nutritious food, it can make people sick, very sick, and even possibly die. So we want to make sure that people have, you know, that healthy, safe food.  And especially when you're talking about space flight, or you're talking about making sure that people can get their produce to market in a way that’s safe for consumers in the countries where we work, we really want to be able to improve the chances that nutritional value that exists in a peanut or that exists in a tomato, all of that nutrition goes to nourish people and keep them healthy and doesn't contribute to making them, you know, sick. So, imagine that, you know, for a long haul space travel food preservation is going to be just as critical as it is here on Earth.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Right. And then, and then Merlyn - and I have some follow up questions for each of you on this.

MERLYN RECINOS: Thank you. So, the biggest problem for us is really the type of products that we're able to produce like I said.  So we’re modular, you know, so it's really what type of products and really trying to have a variety of products that we're able to produce indoors.  And be energy efficient as well, you know, energy and water is really something that, that is also a challenge for us.  Especially for water because it's frozen we need to utilize it for hydroponics and different things so it's, how do we sort of rotate and are able to recycle that water as much as possible so we're able to have a longer stay.  So that's a big challenge and then you know the other part is like I said the type of product or produce that we are able to producer.   we, we can produce a lot of greens, a lot of different things like that but how do we diversify and you know the systems that are out there are very challenging to be able to have that in a modular enclosed space.  

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: So a follow up question on that and this came from the Q&A submitted was about, what have you tried to grow crops and commodities up in Igloolik and in the area where you're operating? And you know what hasn't worked so well that would be perhaps the highest priority for you guys to be able to produce locally?

MERLYN RECINOS: Thank you. So we work with our partner grocer, and so we've been able to produce lettuce we've been able to produce in the High Arctic lettuce we've been able to produce, you know, all of the green sort of hydroponics very no issues whatsoever. Right, but where we are having sort of a challenges is how do we grow potatoes, how do we go carrots, how do we grow peppers? So, you know, those things that are sort of what our biggest challenges.  And having, you know, like the way that this is like a container, the modular right. Having set up the proper system so you know when you're growing lettuce you can, you know, integrate the peppers and integrate you know different things to be able to have a steady supply for the customers for their diets, is another challenge that we face. But, you know, really any leafy like you know, even we have even grown mint, we have even grown you know parsley and cilantro and all of those things, not a problem. But it's when you get to the more specific things like potatoes and carrots the peppers, things like that that you know become a little bit more challenge and that's for the, for the space and the technology that is available.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Awesome. And there are two questions and we know one of them riffs directly off of what Kiersten had said in her commentary. And they, I think they're, they're good, both to Olivier and to Kiersten is about sort of nutrient tracking and the maintenance of nutritional quality.  And somebody had asked, somewhere in the questions about supplements and supplementation, you know, losing our efficacy over the time, three years in space. And I'm curious if anything in the work that you have done and looked at is tracking how nutrition changes over time in sort of stored commodities? And if you have sort of any comments that could kind of enrich the thinking in this challenge around that?

KIERSTEN JOHNSON: Sure. Thanks Alyssa, so the work that we do around nutrition and nutrient tracking. I'm sure that my colleagues who are working more closely in the, in the food safety domain may have more input on this, from where I sit and the work that I do some of the things that concern us have to do with the actually the fertility and the, you know, kind of the soil content, how healthy is the soil?  The health of the soil actually contributes to the quality of the nutrients in whatever is produced in that soil. So if you have really healthy soils, you can have, you know, your carrots or peppers have increased nutritional value, then if you grow that same prop in depleted soils.  So that is that's actually one question that I had for my fellow panelists who are working in these kind of contained spaces, is how do you maintain the health and fertility of the soils that you're growing crops in in the places where you work?

OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Yeah so Merlyn was touching on something really important with the, with the CEA system so controlled environment systems, they're highly right now as level of technology we have, they're highly optimized for a few varieties of produce.  So they’re efficient for most leafy greens, we can have micro greens as well, but the technology is not there yet so that we can broaden the spectrum of what we're able to produce in these controlled environment, environmental climate. So that kind, so there's, there's still a very big limiting factor, right there. And there's also taste that has to be addressed in these systems because their new formula. And an extra consideration which is I think both relevant to, you know, northern communities appropriation, but also for the Deep Space Food Challenge is the cultural factor.  So these types of controlled environmental systems they can rarely tackle the production of culturally diverse produce or culturally diverse, like, what different cultures are looking for in their food. They've been most of the time developed and optimized for very specific culture that kind of limit that that spectrum.  So it's definitely one of the things that will be interesting to touch in this challenge is how do we produce a more diverse. How do we have more diverse produce with these types of technologies that are right now, still quite narrow?

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: There was the sort of clarifying question that came through and I'm interested in the answer too because I don't know really about this one Olivier, which is you're talking about laser light that has 1/10th the cost of other lighting solutions. And I'm curious to know a little bit more about that and also you know what the implications of having that in a contained environment in outer space with astronauts might be, if any at all?

OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Yep, so sadly I'm not the one developing that lighting right now so maybe I can't answer all the questions but if you have specific ones I'll be glad to refer to you to the company that is. So right now we're seeing LED and more and more yeah it is laser lighting so it is much more concentrated beam of light, which with a much lower energy consumption and results that we're seeing right now is higher efficiency in plant growth as well.  Obviously all this is monitored by a very specific AI system, and there's a long list of other components to these technologies, and I'll be happy to refer you to the company that's doing that if you have more questions.

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Great. And I think I have time for one more question for me before I hand it back to Angela. And one question that I specifically want to ask about is sort of pest disease and pathogens. It’s not been the topic of a lot of research in the sort of NASA domain and I can't speak for CSA. But it's something that we're certainly seeing as a continuous and worsening problem worldwide. And so I'm kind of curious to learn from you guys, what you have experienced in terms of growing in, especially in contained environments?  There's, there's this idea now that you know by having machine production and machine harvesting and kind of removing humans from the situation that somehow that that's going to, to get the pests and disease under control. And I'm curious if that's been the experience that I guess in particular, Olivier and Merlyn have had in their continued growing operations? And of course I invite Kiersten to give any kind of comments on the importance of kind of pathogen reduction in global food security. So why don't we start in this case with Merlyn to reverse it again.

MERLYN RECINOS: Okay, thank you know, so this is a definitely a challenge that we face. So you know, in the field if you have an open field if you have some sort of disease within the plants, you know, it usually you know, can be contained.  But if you're growing in a very enclosed environment is usually affects the whole crop, which is can be really devastating. We are actually looking, and we're working right now with our partners our grocer to develop as you talk it’s about the oxygen, the moisture within the environment as well. And so, we're looking at how we can combat some of those disease within the environment and a lot of the times, you know, we're also looking at potentially the type of crops ahead of planting, the type of crops that could potentially give us issues.  And then looking at how can we plant other crops that can potentially you know, minimize that issue for us. So the reality is we haven't really been able to found something that actually works great and it's something that, you know, we have a modular one right now in Taloyoak  that last year devastated our precrops, and it was because of issues with the seeds within the plants.  And like I said, the problem is that once one plant has it, even if you unplant them and the whole crop usually is the one that suffers.  So it's something that we're still looking at and trying to develop but again the technology because all of these have been utilized as Olivier said, to maximize production so you know most of them are used to, how can we produce so many greens to be able to sell at the grocery store, how can we produce so many things to. So it's one sort of type of plant, one sort of type of produce, rather than a variety of it. It hasn't been really fully the technology is very limited to what you can do and how you can combat some of these things. And I'll give it up to Olivier.

OLIVIER DEMERS-DUBÉ: Yeah, Merlyn. Absolutely right. So, there's obviously everything that we know, which is, you know, being careful so having some pretreatment, pre control, making sure that every human that goes into a container is, you know, thoroughly checked. But it's true that when you have a specific especially when you have a monoculture in these type of containers then if you have some pest or if you have some disease and it will spread to the entirety of your crops.  So having a diverse production is actually one of the factors that can help in that sense. But it is true that when you see a problem it's already too late most of the time.  So there's two avenues that we’re looked at right now is to have these technology that allow you to see it before you see it. So we're looking at photonic optics, that can actually analyze plant pests and disease, before the human is able to notice it on their front, so you can do pretreatment, ideally you can rapidly isolate and the other one is this, I'm sorry this is where the extent of my English might come in, but it's the plant physiology component which is not the smell but it's a volatile component that the plant excretes that will tell you, long in advance what the plant is doing and how it's being impacted by its environment, and by analyzing that with some form of AI, or management tool, then you can do a form of control and alleviate some of the pressure on pests and contaminants.  Those are two avenues that are proven promising. 

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: So it seems. I mean, this seems like an extremely relevant topic, be addressing this challenge, because, can you imagine being in space and having your crop fail? What a nightmare. But it's a nightmare that we live regularly on Earth as well and so I'll get the last comment to Kiersten before I hand it back to Angela she has some commentary on priorities are, or needs in this particular space.

KIERSTEN JOHNSON: No, I just like to endorse Alyssa, the importance of this question. Everything from plant pests, insect pests, like fall army worm with locusts that I referred to earlier. Alpha toxins, different types of mycotoxins, these are all things that we face in the, in the places that we work, and I'd be very interested to follow and have the technological development that Olivier was just discussing and of how use artificial intelligence to kind of see those problems before you can physically see it or assess those volatile chemicals in the plant in advance so that you can you can take kind of preventive action in the field.  Fantastic discussion. 

ALYSSA WHITCRAFT: Yeah, I mean separating sort of insects from bacterial from viral in which you can do some level amelioration versus the crop is gone. I think is a really important topic for implementing any of these food solutions. So I want to thank the three panelists. This has been a fantastic discussion I think the three of us agree with keep chatting about this for a really long time, but it's time to hand it back over to Angela, and who will wrap it up, take it home and close out today's session.

ANGELA HERBLET: Hi, thank you everybody that was an amazing discussion, it was so engaging and, and just the panelists, say you know we had over 100 questions and comments come in, so it was a lot to sort through and we're able to get some of them into the discussion, but there are a lot more, you know that will follow up on with you after you know discuss more. So very, very engaging thank you so much for your presentation. So what I'd like to do is just is we're going to wrap it up really quickly because I know we're right about it time.

Next slide please.

ANGELA HERBLET: Okay so, just a reminder that the webinar will be made available online, including the French version, which you'll be able to find something in Canada website, hopefully within the next couple weeks. The recording from our other webinars and our series are already available on the website, both in English and in French. So our first webinar was very informational around the challenge itself, the criteria, the background of how we came up with the challenge, the technology that we're looking for and the assessment criteria. So that was very informational and strictly about the challenge. So if you're interested in that it just posted on both websites. Our second one was focused on more of the applications for technologies in space. So that was a moderated panel discussion with some nutritionists, and a couple of astronauts from both CSA and NASA.  So that again is available as well and that includes the recording, the transcript of the discussion, and also all of the Q&A. 

So for Canadians look out for a networking session that is coming up. And there's more information on the impact Canada website. Please stay connected with us via the channels that you see here.  For anyone that is looking for a team there is a LinkedIn group that's posted here that you can join. And there are teams looking for members and individuals looking to find a team so feel free to use that platform to connect with each other, there's some really great discussions going on there as well. And finally, if you're interested in participating in the challenge as a team, U.S. and non-Canadian international teams must register by May 28th.  And Canadian teams are recommended to register their interests so that you can stay informed of what's going on with the challenge. And again, if you have any questions there are the email addresses for the challenge administrators down at the bottom of this chart. And we cannot wait to see what you bring forward. So with that, we will say thank you very much again.  Thank you to our panelists and our moderator.  Thank you to the audience today for being so engaging.  We appreciate your time and hope you have a great rest of the day. Thank you.

Questions and Answers


  • 1. What is the age requirement for the Challenge?

    For U.S. teams, in order to be eligible to receive a prize, all registered team members must be over the age of 18.

    For Canadian teams, there is no age requirement to apply, but in order to be eligible to receive prizes, participants will be required to establish a Canadian legal entity capable of entering into binding agreements in Canada.

  • 2. Can you be a part of multiple teams?

    Yes, as long as the eligibility requirements are met, you can be a member of multiple teams. However, per the rules, you may only compete in one region: U.S., Canada or International.

  • 3. I am an individual looking for a team, OR our team is looking for someone with a specific expertise. Where should we go?

    There is a LinkedIn group available to support networking between individuals looking to form or join a team and teams looking for additional members. Deep Space Food Challenge Forum:

    A team formation tool was also created for individuals looking for teams or teams looking for additional expertise. It can be accessed at the following link: Find a Team! (DSFC)

  • 4. Can we make changes to our team after registering? For example, team members and team name?

    For U.S. and International teams, new team members may be added after the initial registration period ends. Team members previously registered for the Challenge on one team may not switch teams during the same phase of the competition. The existing Team Leader is accountable for any decision to make changes to the team roster, including bringing on new team members and/or releasing registered team members. New Team members must meet the eligibility requirements and submit all required paperwork and supporting documents as stated on the Challenge website ( Additional information, such as the team name, can also be changed. Please contact the Challenge Administrator ( to discuss and implement all changes.

  • 5. Once the registration package is submitted, what are the next steps?

    For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, the first step in registering is to complete and submit the intake form on the website ( A representative from the Methuselah Foundation will contact you via email with submission details for proof of eligibility to participate and win a prize from NASA. Once the Team Leader has submitted the required information, the Methuselah Foundation will verify eligibility and contact the Team Leader within 5 business days.

    To apply to the Challenge, Canadian teams must submit their application through the following link:


  • 6. Who do I contact if I have questions?

    Questions should be sent to:

  • 7. How do I apply to the Challenge?

    For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, please visit to begin the registration process.

    For Canadian teams, registration is not required, but is recommended in order for teams to receive updates on Challenge events. The registration form for Canadian teams can be found at

  • 8. What is the Challenge timeline?

    For U.S. and non-Canadian International teams, please visit to begin the registration process.

    Phase 1 of the Deep Space Food Challenge opened on January 12, 2021. The key dates are as follows:

    • May 28, 2021 – Registration closes for U.S. and International teams
    • July 30, 2021 – Submission deadline for all teams
    • August 2021 – Judging Panels review and score submissions
    • Fall 2021 – Phase 1 Winners Announced
  • 9. What information are teams asked to provide in their submission?

    The specific design requirements, constraints, and criteria can be found in the NASA Rules Document and the Canadian Applicant Guide. All teams will provide the required information and a video via an online application form. The form will prompt you to provide inputs for each of the criteria, except for scientific and technical merit and feasibility of design, which will be evaluated based on your overall submission. Canadian teams can find this form on the Impact Canada website. A detailed guide on how to submit the Application Form is available in the Canadian Applicant Guide. For U.S. and international teams, a link to access the form will be sent to you after your registration is complete and confirmed, and you've been admitted as an eligible team.

    Through this online form teams will provide:

    • A design abstract - a summary description of the food production technology in 250 words or less. This should make the judges want to read more so make sure it is engaging and interesting.
    • The design report - the full description of your food production technology design.
    • The design animation – the team’s opportunity to show how the food production technology works when it's an operation. The animation should be no longer than five minutes in length and should include set up, operations from a user perspective, inputs and outputs, and shut down and cleaning.
    • Statement of intellectual property - An explanation of who owns the IP of the proposed food production technology.

    Please note, the online application form is the only way that a design concept will be accepted and evaluated by the Challenge judges.

  • 10. If a team succeeds on this Challenge, does NASA and CSA give funding to start a new agriculture start up?

    There are three prize tracks that teams can select to compete in.

    • NASA will award up to $500,000 US dollars in total prize purse
      • Up to 20 teams will be awarded $25,000 USD each
        • Teams must achieve a score in five or more of the scoring categories
      • Teams must meet the eligibility requirements in order to win a prize from NASA
    • The Canadian Space Agency will award $300,000 CAD in grant funding
      • Up to 10 teams each be awarded $30,000 CAD each, and an invitation to be semifinalists entering into Phase 2 of the Challenge.
      • Teams must meet the eligibility requirements in order to win a prize from CSA
    • NASA and CSA will jointly recognize the top 10 International Teams
      • Teams must meet the eligibility requirements in order to participate and be recognized by NASA and CSA

    The specific eligibility requirements for each prize track can be found in the NASA Rules Document and also the CSA Applicant Guide.


  • 11. What are some of the ideas/projects/proposals that have been considered but proven not efficient enough for the mission?

    There currently are no solutions for in-space food production that have been proven efficient enough at a sufficient scale, hence the reason for this Challenge.

  • 12. Does NASA / CSA have a publically available database of studies / reports focused on deep space exploration?

    A history and description of the evolution of the food system can be found here: and here:

    In addition: There is also scientific literature that can be found by searching on Google Scholar for terms like “Space Food, microgravity food, etc.”

    The below links may be of interest:

  • 13. What are the reasons supplements can go bad in space?

    One of the reasons that supplements degrade is simply time. You can think about it as everything having a half life. Just because you don’t use it doesn’t mean it stays there. In foods these processes are often driven by free radicals and oxidation resulting in the loss of nutrition, the “staleness” of the flavor (loss of aromatics) and rancid-ness of the oils. In space cosmic radiation will increase the rate of oxidation. This can be offset somewhat by cold temperature stowage, but not completely. Even in freezers foods go bad (freezer burn) as the water sometimes migrates out of them.

  • 14. Can/do astronauts eat (insert food item)?

    The crew is provided with a variety of common foods similar to how we eat on Earth. Each International Partner flies food to supplement the standard ISS menu. CSA provides Canadian foods that remind their astronaut of home and/or to contribute to group meals, as well as increase variety in the menu. A history and description of the evolution of the food system can be found here: and here:

  • 15. How long does the food need to last in space?

    The food needs to have around a 2-3 year total shelf life for ISS, as it needs a 1.5 year shelf life at the point where it even goes to launch on ISS. A minimal Mars mission would be 21 months, so food (or components) will need 5 years for those exploration missions. Teams should plan their food production systems to meet the duration requirements in the Applicant Guide.

  • 16. Will the Deep Space Food Challenge play an important role in determining if exploration crews go to Mars and start agriculture? If yes, should we discuss agriculture technologies in more detail?

    This Challenge seeks to incentivize Teams to develop novel technologies and/or systems for food production that provide a variety of nutritious foods, and can contribute significantly to and be integrated into a comprehensive food system for future exploration missions. We are not just looking for one specific solution such as crops for example. This Challenge provides a set of constraints and asks Teams to produce the best food production technology they can within those constraints.

  • 17. Instead of creating a machine which helps us to preserve food for a long time (years), why can't we just eat food according to their shelf life?

    The current prepackaged food system we're using will not maintain nutritional quality and sensory acceptability for the length of a Mars mission. Even now, for the international space station, we make the food and put it on a launch vehicle well ahead of launch, and then launch it to spaceflight. And we have to have enough food for the crew to have a reserve. So the food gets to be months old, even on ISS up to a year old, before the crew consumes it. And that's going to become longer with long duration missions. If the food's not acceptable, and it's not providing the nutrition the crew needs, you're not going to have a healthy performing crew or a successful mission.

  • 18. What is our current capacity in the context of cultivating crops and animals in zero gravity?

    At the moment this is not done in any serious way. Most of the plant growth has been done for science in very small growth units. The current units on ISS (Veggie and APH) are bigger than most experiments with growth surface areas around 0.2 square meters. The story would be similar for animals.

  • 19. Do you have to take into account what is the maximum load that you can carry on each trip?

    There are constraints defined in the NASA Rules Document and CSA Applicant Guide that teams should consider in their designs. For this phase where we're trying to capture a wide range of creative ideas from everyone who's participating, defining what the resource needs for your technology or your approach to food production is what we're looking for.

  • 20. Is artificial meat being considered for this food Challenge?

    It really depends what you mean by artificial meat. The answer is that it is neither being considered nor dismissed. If you have good ideas for making this on space missions and it aligns with the Challenge criterion it would be considered.

  • 21. Do NASA and CSA regard both seed oils and fructose in process sugars (sucrose, for example) as food elements to be avoided?

    Detailed nutritional requirements can be found in the NASA STD-3001 document or at as referenced in the NASA Challenge rules document and CSA Applicant Guide.

  • 22. Is soil degradation an issue in space the same way it is on Earth?

    In many ways it is worse. Some of the biggest problems facing space agriculture is how would you reprocess the soil to make it useful for growing again, and what do you do with all of the unused biomass (roots, stems, leaves, hulls, etc.) that aren’t consumed or degraded? For science experiments the root trays were usually only flown once, though there are a few cases where they were re-used. We have seen salts building up in some areas of some root trays.

  • 23. Can the vacuum of space be leveraged for refrigeration?

    If you were going to use the cold of space, you would still need a lot of resources to provide infrastructure for that as well as protection from vacuum. For example you would need to make sure the food is never facing the sun or allowed to warm. Whether that's better than using a refrigerator or not is still unknown.

  • 24. How does pest control work in space food systems?

    Typically we avoid them. By not bringing pests onto the ISS, we don’t need to worry about them in the growth chambers. The exceptions are plant pathogens. These can come up with other fresh foods, astronauts or as stowaway spores. We try to avoid them by providing good growing conditions for the plant, though if it gets too wet we have lost experiments to fungi. There have been other losses to other plant pathogens, resulting in loss of science.

  • 25. Is "garbage in garbage out (GIGO)" a sustainable approach for pest mitigation in space? E.g.: be sure not to bring the pests up in the first place?

    While this has worked for insects and other plant pests it has not worked for bacterial, viral, and fungal invaders. We have tried to maintain clean plant facilities and optimize the conditions for the plant, but we still see occasional losses due to disease. If you could be sure you weren’t bringing them along, then it should work. You would still want to have a mitigation strategy for the “if something happens” case.

  • 26. Are there any specific calorie requirements (or suggested) per day per astronaut?

    Information on the current standards for food systems as they related to the challenge targets can be found in NASA-STD-3001 ( or at

  • 27. Can regenerative agriculture be considered for deep space exploration in a bio regenerative system?

    Yes, if it can be made to work.

  • 28. What does NASA think of introducing Jason Fung's ideas about fasting into food planning for space flight?

    If proposing this as part of your design, you would need to describe how this would be beneficial. The problem facing the astronauts is weight loss due to loss of interest in their diets, and poor nutrition due to both loss of interest in eating as well as degradation of the nutrients themselves after long term storage. Crews selected for space flight need to meet rigorous standards including exercise as this is required to maintain bone density and muscle mass during space flight.

  • 29. How many people are going to Mars and how many years are they going to research on Mars?

    The baseline mission has four people going to Mars. The time durations to be used are given in the Challenge guidelines.

  • 30. Is cryogenic sleep available now for space travel or is it still a working theory?

    This remains a dream.

  • 31. Is NASA considering using human remains as a potential food source? If so is this related to algae or mushrooms as a form of food?

    If by “remains” you mean fecal matter and urine, this is considered in a number of bioregenerative life support system designs. Studying ESA’s MELLISA project may be informative. An overview can be found on the Wikipedia site: If you mean deceased members of the crew, the mission plans to return all crew members to Earth healthy and alive.


  • 32. Does Agtech focus at all on nutrient density in food?

    There are companies that take this seriously, so yes. Often they will use this in their marketing materials for the foods that they sell.

  • 33. Do you think a shift from monoculture farming to food forest or permaculture will be able to sustain the same amount of food as industrial farming?

    All farming is local, so it has to be done right for the environment that the crops are grown in. Also one needs to keep in mind that even things we tend to think of as “permanent,” like forests, are continually remodeled by disease, fire, flood, and drought with different parts going through different successions, hopefully at different times to maintain the health of the system. This should probably also be reflected in farming practices.

  • 34. What types of foods are the most valuable or most important to produce in remote communities?

    Again, all agriculture is local, so the foods must match the cultures and climates of the places they are grown. It took thousands of years to breed crops that can be grown in the high latitudes of the world, and in the last several decades soybeans have become available as crops as far north as Canada. The crops must provide caloric nutrition, vitamins and minerals, and be integrated into the cultures utilizing them.

  • 35. What is the position of organic farming in both the USA and Canada?

    There is no formal position on organic farming for this challenge. When plants have been grown in space it has typically been done without the use of pesticides or herbicides (Organic or Not). There are no pests in space (unless you bring them with you). Other diseases have been controlled through strict hygiene protocols prior to launch. Scientists are thinking about using soil biomes to enhance the growth of plants in space.

  • 36. Are there any current or future projects of using low-temp waste heat to heat greenhouses/indoor forms?

    On Earth, yes.

  • 37. How do you regard the numerous studies showing that extracted and processed seed oils are a mitochondrial toxin?

    This would be a consideration in crew diet planning.

  • 38. Do you think that the misconceptions regarding GMO crops affect the current food insecurity problems given that these crops give much advantage in terms of producing more crops, nutrition, and pest control?

    The challenge takes no position on genetically modified crops. We are interested in all solutions, and they will be evaluated based on their own merits.

  • 39. Are there any genetically modified foods for the cold?

    A lot of work has been done on things like frost resistance, with some technical success. You would have to do a search for commercially available crops with these traits. They would be uncommon, and there may not be any currently on the market due to the challenge of maintaining the value chain of crops like these.

  • 40. Do you think CELSS technology and PCR monitoring of genetic content could be used to establish gnotobiotic food production systems?

    Gnotobiosis isn’t a focus for the challenge. Something like the CELSS technology could work, but because astronauts are coming and going from the crews, and live in the same air as the plants they grow, we see strong evidence of microorganisms coming from the humans living with the plants. We believe this is because we have only begun to consider the plant microbiome in space flight. Originally many plants and plant tissues were grown using aseptic technique.

  • 41. Do any of you have experience with techniques of safely reintegrating human waste back into the soil to improve efficiency and keep the soil healthy?

    This is not currently being done. Some bioreactors have been tested in space to help advance these ideas, but are at early stages. For deep space missions we know we will have to recover as many nutrients as we can as well as the water.

  • 42. All of this requires the input of nutrients from soil. Is there interest in using mushrooms to help close the loop from food to waste and back to food?

    Any food source that can be shown to work for this Challenge will be considered. Keep in mind the Challenge rules. Some people like mushrooms, others do not, but that can be said of almost any food. We are interested in your solutions.

  • 43. Can you share the analysis that’s been done on nutrition monitoring?

    Typically this is done by sending samples to labs for doing organoleptic testing and determination of actual vitamin, mineral and other nutrient levels. The astronauts have also been fortunate enough to sample some of the produce and report back on their experience.

  • 44. What expectations can be offered with new food production options in rural areas that help improve production results today?

    We would like to see these systems be able to be deployed in remote or rural areas.

  • 45. In hydroponics, have you considered a duplicate fish-stocking and growth system?

    Work has been done between the Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers to look at full system recycling including plant growth, human waste, and aquaculture. This remains an advanced concept for space due to mass, power and volume requirements.