Dutch seek crowdfunding for investigation into space-grown vegetables

Researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands have turned to crowdfunding in order to investigate whether plants grown in lunar or Martian soils would be safe for human consumption.

Image: WUR
Image: WUR

"If the project is successful, and shows that it is indeed safe to eat the plants and fruits, it brings the journey and the establishment of a long term human presence on Mars and a more or less permanent base on the moon one step closer," they explained on the project's appeal page.

Several groups aim to take people to Mars in the next ten to fifteen years, while humans may return to the moon within five, they point out, adding: "People will also have to eat there and what is more logical than to grow your own food locally?"

Already the researchers have investigated whether it was possible to cultivate peas, radishes and tomatoes in a Mars- and moon-like medium, which yielded radishes, peas, tomatoes and rye. However both soils contain several heavy metals that are toxic to humans such as lead, cadmium and arsenic.

"Plants are not too bothered by these and just carry on growing," the researchers said. "We don't know if the harvested fruits contain heavy metals and we don't know if it is safe to eat them – which is what we aim to address in this project."

The growing media will be enriched with organic material to improve the structure and nutrient supply, while for Mars the nutrient will consist of inedible parts of the plants and human faeces. Fruits and edible parts will then be harvested and analysed for heavy metals.

This, they added: "will also provide an insight into the uptake of heavy metals by plants in general and is therefore applicable to the situation on earth".

The team hope to raise €20,000 through crowdfunding. It is one of three new Wageningen projects seeking funding this way, as none are eligible for conventional funding.

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