A team of German scientists have harvested the first crop of vegetables grown under soilless, sunless conditions. Working with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the scientists and engineers assembled a high-tech greenhouse from container parts to explore possible ways of growing fresh produce during missions in outer space.
The EDEN ISS laboratory was constructed in Antarctica for its rough, hostile climate and isolation, where the scientists could experiment with conditions close to those of Mars or the Moon.
The team reports they have successfully harvested 3.6 kilograms of leafy greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes. The tasty looking salad ingredients were grown in the lab without any dirt, daylight or pesticides and were grown using techniques from hydroponics.
Instead of soil, the roots sat in a nutrient-rich water and optimised LED lighting mimicked sun conditions. "After sowing the seeds in mid-February, I had to deal with some unexpected problems, such as minor system failures and the strongest storm in more than a year," said Paul Zabel, an engineer involved with the project.
"Fortunately, all these things could be fixed and overcome." This initial salad is just the beginning for The German Aerospace Centre, which coordinates the project. The centre has plans to ramp up production so they can harvest 4-5 kilograms of vegetables a week.
Keep an eye out for updates, but in the meantime have a look at the video below to learn more about The EDEN ISS laboratory.