Mars tomato salad is getting closer and closer
Photo provided by the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) of a montage showing a bottle of Heinz’s popular tomato sauce “ketchup” in space (Image: EFE)

A science team in Florida paved the way for this Future Mars colonists can eat fresh tomatoes in collaboration with the Heinz brand, which has also produced a “Mars” version of the iconic and iconic “ketchup.”

Directed by Andrew Palmer, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, a team from the Aldrin Space Institute in Florida (USA) achieved using seeds contributed by Haynes, Growing tomatoes in conditions similar to those on the Red Planet in a closed, artificially lit facility.

The team devoted more than 2000 hours initially in an experimental study of 30 plants and then devoted to the cultivation of about 450 plants In individual buckets, working closely with Heinz throughout the process.

question to answer

The main purpose of this research is Help “understand what is needed to produce food on Mars”Palmer tells the agency EFE From Melbourne (Florida’s east coast) in an interview with Zoom.

Palmer says so Science must have answered this question before the colonization of Mars became a reality, which is expected in about 30 years, as one of the most complex problems is a problem feed from the settlers.

Mars is seven months away from our planet And with what is known so far about its surface, it is unthinkable produce vegetables Just like on Earth, he adds.

“Not with that atmosphere, that temperature and that radiation”، The red house, where his team grew tomatoesHe left the way they dealt with the robots to the farmers before expelling the settlers.

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He says these robots are something Florida tech students are already working on.Florida Institute of Technology, to which the Aldrin Space Institute belongs, is also known, and which owes its name to astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who, with Neil Armstrong, climbed on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission.

Although Palmer believed that most of the food the settlers would have would be prepared and delivered from the land, it would also be essential. Follow a “complementary diet” like vegetables that can be produced on Mars.

Rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars (Image: Getty Images)
Rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars (Image: Getty Images)

In this regard, he says his team is already considering doing so Experiments with “another pair of vegetables”, In addition to continuing to explore tomato cultivation to improve it.

chandeliers and light

The project continued in total Two years, almost six months what it took to grow tomatoes, from sowing to harvesting, In the so-called Red House, it was installed at the Florida Tech Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovative Design, in Palm Bay.

To grow tomato plants around 7,800 pounds (more than 3,500 kilograms) of regolith, A type of dust from the Mojave Desert (USA) with properties similar to those found in today’s Martian soil, and powerful LED lighting.

The Constant temperature control and regular watering also helped the tomatoes grow optimally.

“They are rich and smell great”, says Palmer when asked about these tomatoes that Heinz made a special “ketchup”, being experimental, Only a few people will have the chance to taste Associated with the company where it will not be marketed.

NASA image of the red planet
NASA image of the red planet

The “Mars Edition”, with the zeta ending in Heinz rather than the ending containing “Mars” (Mars in English), it is A further outcome of one of the largest and longest-running investigations into the challenges and opportunities of food production on the Red Planet.

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“One of the biggest challenges we face is How to grow in less-than-ideal soil conditions, and this project can help us figure out ways to tackle this problem”Gary King, Kraft Heinz’s chief agricultural officer, said in a statement.

As Palmer says in response to a question from EFEExperimental cultivation of tomatoes under Martian conditions It can also help in difficult situations that may occur on the ground due to weather or other factors.

An astrobiologist, as Florida Tech calls it, asserts that the advantage of working with a well-known food brand is that Now not only do they know that tomatoes can be grown in an environment similar to that of Mars, but they also know that they are safe to eat.

Tomato stock photography (Photo: EFE)
Tomato stock photography (Photo: EFE)

Of the four tomato varieties in the extensive Heinz seed catalog that were previously selected for the experiment, two were finally selected, in order to obtain Greater harvestKing explained in the statement.

Although the project produced hundreds of tomatoes, the expanded program, in contrast to the smaller pilot effort, produced fewer tomatoes than expected, Palmer said who is considered It is a sign of the challenges of getting the right light, temperature and watering in larger growing spaces.

“This process is practically in its infancy,” And the world that sees now that it’s over confirms that it poses more challenges than it initially expected. “But that It is no reason to believe that we cannot achieve this.”say with confidence.

(Anna Mingotti – Agence France-Presse)

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