Food from thin air: the forgotten space tech that could feed planet earth
More than half a century ago NASA worked out the microbial recipe for sustaining astronauts on long space missions to Mars and beyond. Forgotten for 50+ years, those very same microbes can feed the hundreds of millions of hungry people down here on Earth. Not only that, they may hold the key to a truly carbon neutral, circular economy.
The microbes NASA worked with in the 1960s weren’t just any microbes, however. They were bacteria that can harvest energy from little more than the mere constituents of air, waste CO2, and water to make plentiful amounts of nutritious protein. Unlike plants, these microbes don’t even need to use light. Instead, the bacteria — known as hydrogenotrophs — use hydrogen as fuel to make food from CO2 — just like plants use the energy of sunlight in photosynthesis.
Yet, as Scot Bryson, CEO of Orbital Farm, a circular project development company that integrates biotech, energy, and aquaponics explains, “This technology was developed over 50 years ago for space and was never used for earth, which meant all that knowledge ended up getting lost in time.”