NASA intends to put the first man on Mars in the 2030’s. But once he’s there, what will he have for lunch?
Perhaps veggies grown in a BioPod.
This incredible new device from startup Interstellar Lab could finally allow us to cultivate crops in space. It could also revolutionize agriculture here on Earth.
The BioPod is an inflatable dome about 20 feet wide, 33 feet long, and 15 feet tall. It uses aeroponics, precision nutrient delivery, and careful climate control to produce the ideal growing environment for plants.
This means it can grow high value crops like flowers and microgreens. It can even grow plants that can’t be grown with traditional agriculture, like vanilla.
It’s also remarkably efficient, reducing water consumption by 98% while boosting yields up to 300-fold.
The BioPod is designed not just to feed humans in space, but on an increasingly unpredictable Earth. From a recent interview:
“Climate change is a real emergency for Earth, and we only have a small window to bring about positive change. We are developing a new framework for sustainable living on Earth and a testbed for future space missions,” Barbara Belvisi, Founder and CEO, Interstellar Lab said.
The BioPod is currently in production. You can even pre-order one now!
But at $250,000 each plus a monthly subscription fee, it’s a bit out of reach for most gardeners. Oh, and shipping’s not included.
However, if the BioPod can reduce inputs and boost yields as radically as Interstellar claims, I could see rapid adoption in the agriculture industry.
Already, companies like Bowery Farming are taking agriculture from farms to urban warehouses using hydroponics. They seem like a natural customer for Interstellar Lab, and I’m sure there are many more.
Long term, perhaps the BioPod will be deployed on Mars to support astronauts brought there by a SpaceX Starship. It’s a beautiful future I look forward to.
In the mean time, I’m itching to try a BioPod salad! 🙂
What do you think of the BioPod? Would you try its food?
On Saturday, I stood in the produce section of a nearby Whole Foods. My eyes were drawn to tiny packages of delicate microgreens. The producer: Aero Farms.
Agriculture faces a difficult environment. Climate change is making weather more extreme and unpredictable. Workers are harder and harder to find. But a new model of farming is emerging, and it looks like nothing else we’ve ever seen.
Aero Farms grows greens in vertical stacks in what was once an abandoned steel mill. The farm is in gritty Newark, NJ, just a few miles from the Whole Foods where I encountered their product. They use 95% less water and 99% less land than a traditional farm. And unlike other farms, they can grow year round.
Technology is also revolutionizing how produce is picked. A company called Root AI makes soft, robotic hands that can pick anything from a hearty cucumber to a fragile strawberry. Alongside the robotic hands is a camera enabled with AI, which can identify the ripe produce and leave the rest to grow.
Seeing it in action feels like seeing the future:
These robots are now being put to use in giant warehouse farms that you could easily mistake for an Amazon Fulfillment Center. These are a project of AppHarvest, which claims they use 90% less water and are 30 times more productive per acre than a traditional farm.
Even if the company’s projections are a bit optimistic, there’s strong evidence from numerous producers that indoor farming uses dramatically less water and space. And with the farm just a few miles from its customers in major cities, transportation costs and emissions are cut to the bone.
Putting robotics and indoor farming together, I think we are headed to a future that produces more output (food) with far fewer inputs (labor, water, land). And unlike human labor, electronics tend to rapidly decrease in price. That will only speed their adoption and lower food prices further.
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