Can Eden be at the South Pole

Eden-ISS: greenhouse test successful! | Over 200 kilos of vegetables
harvested at the South Pole!

Endurance test passed: a whole, icy year at the South Pole, 257 days of which were cut off from the outside world - and more than 270 kilos of fresh vegetables and lettuce were grown and harvested.

The Antarctic gardener Paul Zabel from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) tried growing vegetables for lunar or Mars missions in the Eden ISS greenhouse.

At the press conference in Bremen on Wednesday, DLR and the researchers said they were extremely satisfied with the experiment, which was so successful despite snowstorms and freezing cold. The expert did a great job: "Future space travelers will thank him", praised Dr. Daniel Schubert, head of the project.

Rich harvest

The DLR researcher was able to grow 117 kilograms of lettuce, 67 kilograms of cucumbers, eight kilograms of radishes, 19 kilograms of kohlrabi and 46 kilograms of tomatoes in the Antarctic - without soil or daylight. In a hermetically sealed greenhouse in which the plants were supplied with a nutrient solution that was sprayed on.

“I was actually surprised that we could harvest so much,” said space engineer Zabel. In addition to lettuce and vegetables, fresh herbs also grew, only the cultivation of strawberries and peppers did not go as hoped.

The vegetables came on the table of a total of ten researchers who wintered together on the Antarctic station.

▶ ︎ Paul Zabel set out for Antarctica on December 16, 2017 and spent the winter with nine others at the German Antarctic station Neumayer III, next to which the greenhouse module was being built.

Almost every day, Zabel made his icy commute to the Eden ISS greenhouse around 400 meters from the station. The greenhouse was only automatically monitored and controlled by the control center in Bremen during heavy snowstorms, of which Zabel experienced numerous in the Antarctic winter.

“Antarctica is a fascinating place. I am very happy that I was able to be one of the few people who had the opportunity to winter in Antarctica, ”said Zabel. Still, he is happy to have been home again this Christmas.

The samples brought along will be analyzed over the next few months.

The project

The Eden ISS module developed at the DLR site in Bremen is a pilot project for research into crop cultivation under extreme conditions. The developers have deserts in mind, especially space missions to the moon and Mars.

▶ ︎ The project is financed by the EU. The EU states are jointly driving forward an ambitious space program that should enable long-term missions in space. Eden-ISS is only one sub-project.

Recently, DLR also sent a greenhouse satellite into space as part of its Eucropis mission. It has two greenhouse modules with cherry tomato seeds on board, which are supposed to germinate and grow during the mission.

While it orbits the earth, the satellite creates gravitational conditions through its own rotation like on the moon and Mars. There the gravitational pull is lower than on earth. The experts want to test how the plants react to it.

The future

▶ ︎ Together with the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and other research partners, DLR will further develop the production processes in the Eden ISS greenhouse in order to offer an optimized greenhouse concept for future stations on the moon or Mars.

The continuation of the project is open to researchers from all over the world.

"We will soon be handing the greenhouse over to the new winterers who will continue the Eden ISS project in Antarctica and take care of the planting," said Dr. Daniel Schubert, head of the project.

Schubert and his team will travel to Antarctica again in mid-January 2019 to maintain the Eden ISS greenhouse and bring it up to date with the latest technology.

In addition, global food production is one of the central societal challenges of the 21st century, emphasized the DLR.

An increasing world population with simultaneous upheavals due to climate change require new ways to cultivate crops even in climatically unfavorable regions.

"For deserts and areas with low temperatures as well as for space missions to the moon and Mars, a closed greenhouse enables harvests independent of weather, sun and season, as well as less water consumption and the absence of pesticides and insecticides," writes the DLR.

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