Zero (food) waste on Mars — an example for planet Earth

How we all can profit from a permanent settlement on Mars

elizabeth-lies-20237

We are happy to share with you the first article in this publication. We would like to give you a glimpse how the first years on Mars could look like regarding food and nutrition and what challenges lie ahead when the first humans put their feet on Mars for a permanent settlement.

The first colony on Mars will be at the beginning just a handful of people, but it will steadily grow over the time. The first settlers will eat their freeze dried food from earth till the first crop on Mars is harvested. That will affect somehow the psychology, but a toll has to be made to build up this settlement.

A large habitat for the living, working, growing and processing food is needed because the atmosphere on Mars is hostile for human life. This habitat must provide diverse conditions so that different kinds of plants can be grown. According to some sources, the diet will be vegan because animals would consume too many resources. But we have to be aware, that humans can not eat all day long the same things. If you imagine, eating ever day potatoes, you would not even think to settle on Mars. Besides that, humans need a balanced diet to get all the required nutritions. But before we start with discussing, what will be planted, we should first consider how an optimal diet would look like on Mars. To save space, the habitat and resources like water and fertilizer, the output of protein, fat, and carbs per m2 habitat growing area have to be maximized with a focus on proteins and fats. Too many carbs would lead to the same health problems on Earth. It would also not make sense to waste all the resources for sugar cane! For examples, soy could be an attractive plant because of its multifunctional properties.

So a meal on Mars in the first years could look like this:

To drink:

Vanilla flavored soy milk, water, beer or wine

To eat

Tofu with cooked beans and vegetables, some bread, soy yogurt with fruits as a dessert.

Not so bad, isn’t it?

Besides the Martian agronomy, we also need food factories, where all the harvested food has to be preserved and processed. It is evident; we can not transport a lot of food processing equipment from Earth to Mars due weight and costs restrictions. So simple preservation methods such as fermentation, heating or drying need to be sufficient. During the food processing, food waste and by- products have to be avoided or reused for other food products. These cycles have to be studied very carefully before departure to Mars, once figured out, this knowledge could also be applied to Earth to solve these big important issues. A good example is Aquaponic. Here an explaination.

Imagine after some time, more and more and people arrive on Mars, and more food will be needed. It will not anymore be feasible to feed a handful of individuals in a dining room. Food needs to be therefore packed and shipped to different places on Mars. What sounds so easy on Earth, is a huge challenge on Mars. Think about the packaging. Today we throw everything in the garbage. Out of sight, out of mind. Just imagine the lifecycle of a carton box.

Will we just grow trees on Mars to produce cellulose that ends up as a crumpled box in the bin? I don’t think so. Reusability of food packaging is the solution. Cheap, energy efficient, easy to store and reuse and food protective will be essential. How in the end a container for soy milk on Mars will look like, would be interesting. But as already mentioned, a solution for Mars could also be a great solution for mother Earth.

A settlement on Mars sounds for some people crazy, but in the end, humanity can technologically profit from this venture in a way, never seen before. That is the next frontier.

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