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The Farms of the Future Were Built for Outer Space. Will They Work on Earth?

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Visitors look at vegetables growing under artificial light on a vertical farm, in the IKEA: Gardening Will Save the World garden, in London on May 20th, 2019. 

On Mars, we’ll all farm underground. Our crops will grow in a greenhouse, where large, parabolic mirrors focus the sun’s weak rays and transmit them through fiber optic cables. We’ll harvest vegetables to eat—but also the purified water that evaporates from their leaves. We’ll all be vegan, because raising animals for food will be too expensive. And, most importantly, the plants will give us oxygen.

“That’s the starting point to a whole civilization right there,” says Utah State University researcher Bruce Bugbee. This is Bugbee’s vision, one he’s been dreaming of and testing and revising for years as a plant engineer with NASA.

Astronauts going to Mars can eat all the freeze-dried food they’re able to ship, but if humans are going to survive on the planet they’ll need to plants to produce oxygen. Not just any photosynthesizer will do: Mars is a difficult environment, with many challenges for farmers. Crops will need to be able to thrive in a small area, retain their nutrient content, and still taste good. Structures where they grow on the surface will need to withstand basketball-sized meteorites. The technology used to grow the plants will take massive amounts of energy. Mars also presents the ultimate recycling challenge, since astronauts can’t pack all the water and nutrients they need on a two-and-a-half-year space flight.

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Thanks !

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