Food insecurity is an issue faced worldwide by communities in both urban and rural settings. NASA recently announced the Deep Space Food Challenge which could potentially provide solutions to world hunger. The competition calls on the public to help develop innovative and sustainable food production technologies or systems that require minimal resources and produce minimal waste.
The Deep Space Food Challenge was launched with the aim of coming up with solutions to feed astronauts on long duration space missions far away from the Earth. Since food loses its nutritional value over time, prepackaged food will not last long term for crews on space missions. The Challenge asks participants to come up with an innovative food production technology to sustain a crew of four on a three-year deep space mission. The competition had its Phase 1 in October 2021 where 18 teams were awarded for their innovative solutions which were classified into one of the three categories: manufactured foods, bio culture and plant growth.
Even though it might seem like the competition calls for solutions to be implemented in space, a major goal of the competition is to be able to apply some of these solutions to food production on Earth too. By implementing solutions requiring the efficient use of volume, water, and other inputs for producing food there will be a reduced impact on the resources on Earth which is ideal especially in extreme environments and resource-scarce regions.
This competition is launched by NASA and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). Both organizations run separate parallel competitions in the US and Canada respectively. For Phase 1, NASA awarded a total of $450,000 in prizes to 18 teams. For phase 2, NASA is offering up to $1million in prizes with the top ten US finalist teams being awarded $20,000 each, top five receiving $150,000 each and an additional $50,000 bonus for five teams. The competition will also recognize international participants with up to five top scoring international teams anticipated to move on to compete in the final on-site demonstration and three top scoring international teams to be recognized as the winners for Phase 2. Phase 2 registrations are now open until February 28. The competition is open to all regardless of participation in Phase 1.
Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022