It’s a great time to be alive. We live in an era where we can grow meat without animals, cure diseases with genetic engineering, and soon even travel to Mars.
But despite all our technological progress, one fact remains, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 2020, between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger. And that number is only expected to increase as Earth’s population continues to climb.
The problem has been apparent for decades now. We need new solutions, or else hunger will continue unabated and take us down with it. The good news is that NASA scientists already know how to solve the global food crisis — but no one listened when they said it.
Space travel has always been an interest to me. But now I think about it differently; space bacteria could be the key to feeding Earth’s ever-growing population!
Space is full of microorganisms that have evolved in unique ways to adapt and survive in harsh conditions where humans cannot live. Scientists are looking into these extremophiles for new medicines, clean energy sources, and even food products!
We’re not going to find any aliens on Mars anytime soon, but we might discover a new way to feed everyone here on Earth.
Years ago, NASA scientists realized that if astronauts ever had a permanent base on the Moon or lived for extended periods on Mars, they would need food grown in artificial environments. Lacking an immediate application here on Earth, their work remained classified and forgotten about until recently. Now this research is resurfacing with renewed interest from both academia and industry alike.
The microorganisms NASA tested in the 1960s weren’t any bacteria. They were bacteria that could extract energy from little more than air, waste CO2, and water to produce extensive amounts of nutritious protein. These microorganisms, unlike plants, do not need light to survive. Instead, hydrogenotrophic are bacteria that use hydrogen as a source of energy instead of sunlight in photosynthesis. They use CO2 as an energy source to make food from hydrogen.
“There are genuinely sufficient resources in the world to ensure that no one, nowhere, at no time, should go hungry.” — Ed Asner, Actor, and Social activist.
Orbital Farm is the company that is leading this effort. Scot Bryson, the company’s CEO, said, “This technology was developed for space 50 years ago and has never been used on earth, so all that expertise went lost in time.” While the technology might be lost, it has been rediscovered and is being brought up to speed.
Bryson was born on an organic farm which made him appreciate nature early. He started assembling a team around 2011 but did not get going until 2015, when he joined forces with NASA.
Can these same technologies provide us with sustainable solutions here on Earth?
The answer is yes. Not only can these technologies provide us with sustainable solutions here on Earth. But they may also hold the key to a true carbon neutral and circular economy that promises nothing less than saving our planet from ourselves.
The technology offers significant environmental benefits and could also transform how we produce food in much more efficient ways. For instance, rather than relying on sunlight for energy, this method uses hydrogen, which requires far less water to produce than conventional methods of growing food. This means there’s more fresh water available for other purposes like drinking or irrigation. About 80 percent of all freshwater is used by agriculture alone!
How does it work? Well, first, you need bacteria — lots of them — per cubic foot actually — each producing a couple of hundred kilograms of protein every year.
Then, add water and carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen gas — an efficient energy source with no greenhouse gases or other pollutants produced when combusted in oxygen, so it’s the perfect fuel! Combine that with CO₂ from power plants or even atmospheric air along with some nitrogen for good measure. And you have yourself a sustainable fertilizing system capable of feeding people all over the world without displacing more land!
The possibilities are endless. Food production with no soil; microgrids powered by harvested rainwater (which can be desalinated if needed); wastewater treatment on par with natural ecosystems… These technologies could change everything we know about how our planet works. They may also give us the chance to live comfortably and sustainably on Earth for centuries to come.
NovoNutrients is another one of the businesses driving the change. It aims to be one of the significant manufacturing technologies in a new circular economy by first disrupting the fast-growing aquaculture industry. According to FAO data, aquaculture is the fastest-growing food sector worldwide, accounting for half of global fish production and 60 percent of total seafood consumption.
NovoNutrients will use these technologies in its operations. Still, it won’t stop there: It plans on licensing this technology to other companies as well so everyone can take advantage of it! They are working with NASA who has recognized NovoNutrient’s value proposition from day one.
We need a new approach that will allow us to feed the future population of Earth while reducing our carbon footprint and preserving biodiversity.
I’m so excited about this technology developed by NASA, which could help create bioengineered food in space. This would mean no more transporting resources across the globe or depleting land for agriculture! It sounds crazy at first, but when you stop and think about it. It all makes sense.
The world is changing, and we’re all a part of it. Let’s keep innovating to solve the 800 million hungry people problem and many more!