Alternative Meat for Astronauts
NASA recently launched its Deep Space Food Challenge, calling on scientists to develop novel food technologies and systems for producing safe and palatable food for long-duration space missions. Eternal, a winning team from phase 1 of the challenge, designed an appliance that can print anything from burgers to ice cream at the touch of a button using a fungal-based ingredient. Join us as we explore this exciting new technology and how we could use it to combat food insecurity on Earth.
The Challenges of Developing a Food System for Space
Astronauts need a reliable source of nutrition to survive in space, and many of our existing foods cannot withstand the demands of spaceflight. Much of the food people eat on the ISS is dehydrated or preserved, supplemented by regular fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries. If we hope to send humans to Mars, we need to develop space food that is:
- Palatable and varied to maintain morale
- Provides adequate nutrition and energy
- Uses minimal resources to prepare
- Produces zero or minimal waste
- Lightweight, safe, and shelf-stable
A food system suitable for space could also resolve many challenges we face on Earth, such as food insecurity, resource depletion, and arable land scarcity.
The Fungal Food That Could Change the Future
Mycoprotein is an alternative protein source made from Fusarium venenatum – a naturally-occurring fungus the FDA approved for consumption in 2001. Manufacturers ferment the fungus with glucose to create a meat-like product first commercialized by vegan foods producer Quorn. Eternal’s version of the fungal-based ingredient, Mycofood, contains 15.58g of protein per 100g which is easier to digest than protein from beef, soy, and wheat gluten1.
The company’s award-winning technology that won them a place in NASA’s Space Life Science Lab is an automated device that produces fungal biomass astronauts can use to make a diverse range of nutrient-rich foods. The device is compact and functional in low-gravity environments and may be suitable for many applications on Earth, including deep-sea and antarctic expeditions.
Why We Should Use Mycoprotein to Produce Food on Earth
Eternal is one of many food technology companies hoping to scale mycoprotein production to combat food insecurity on Earth. The fungal-based ingredient has many benefits, including:
- A complete source of protein
Providing protein-rich foods to developing nations could combat malnutrition, disease, and child mortality rates. Mycoprotein is also naturally vegan and contains no GMOs.
- Reduced environmental impact
Producing fungal-based food uses less water, land, and energy with lower greenhouse gas emissions than farming beef, chicken, or soy. Mycoprotein is fast-growing biomass and a sustainable food source.
- Versatile and market-ready
Manufacturers can use mycoprotein to produce almost any savory or sweet food with the addition of various flavoring ingredients. Its versatility results in less food waste with lower processing costs.
As the global population grows, we must find a sustainable food source that can meet our nutritional demands without depleting natural resources and destroying the planet. Fungal-based protein could be a viable food solution for the future that we can produce on Earth and in space as extraterrestrial exploration expands.
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