In our continuous search for innovation, Puratos decided to take off on an ambitious journey.
To be the first to solve the challenge of baking bread on the planet Mars.
The space race in the 1950s put the first human in orbit and successfully landed the first humans on the moon. But it also led to spinoff technologies resulting from space research and development that we now use in everyday life. The GPS, CAT scanners and radiography, wireless headsets, LED lighting, freeze-dried foods, memory foam and many other familiar products have all benefited from space technology research development.
We believe that our discoveries during this revolutionary experiment, will lead to amazing, innovative applications on planet earth.
To live on Mars, humans would need to produce the bulk of their food themselves. For this, specialists agree that the ideal staple food is bread. This is because bread is universally accepted and the most complete and nutritious food item, allowing for innumerable varieties.
But the environment on Mars is very different from ours on Earth. We cannot breathe in Mars’ atmosphere as it contains very little oxygen and is mainly made up of carbon dioxide. And cold temperatures and dust storms don’t provide the right conditions for crop growth. That is why we need to investigate how to efficiently cultivate grains in hermetically closed and fully controlled environments. It is for this reason that our research will take place in 4 coupled containers, a closed system in which the climate can be adapted to make it suitable for crop growth, with optimal use of resources.
These are the compartments inside the containers:
In order to bring together various knowledge domains and expertise, a consortium was created with several partners. The consortium has been awarded a subsidy of 4.5 million euros by the Flemish government via VLAIO (Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship), contributing to a total of over 6.3 million euros in funding. Together, we will investigate how to further improve nutritional value, sustainability and the efficient use of energy to produce bread today, but also tomorrow in more challenging environments.
With less rain and more drought, the usage of water is under pressure. With our hermetically closed system and vertical agriculture, we believe we’ll be able to grow wheat with only 5% of the water that is needed in normal conditions. This technology could also be used in closely populated areas where farmland is not always available or in regions with extreme temperatures.
Today, farmers apply nutrients on their fields in the form of fertilizers, which provide crops with the nitrogen and phosphorus necessary to grow and produce the food we eat. However, when nitrogen and phosphorus are not fully utilized by the growing plants, they can be lost from the farm fields and negatively impact air and water quality. In the SpaceBakery, we will be able to investigate and optimize the plant’s growing conditions . This could lead to a faster harvest, higher yield and a more qualitative crop with efficient use of nutrients.
Developing a robust sourdough system to ferment the dough to a tasty and nutritionally high quality product will enable artisan and industrial bakers around the globe to use this technology in the diverse environments of their bakeries.
To use energy in the most efficient way possible, we’ll investigate the potential of baking bread through microwave technology and ohmic heating. We’ll explore how to re-use the by-products we create like straw, chaff and the bran, to eliminate waste and contribute to a circular economy with a continual use of resources.
And In order to make bread more nutritious and diversified, we will also investigate the possibilities of new, emerging crops. More knowledge about these plants, which can grow in extreme conditions, could help improve breads in Africa and other regions. When we will look at fruits or berries, we’ll also need to find solutions for pollination. Wheat reproduces itself with only the help of wind, which is easy to simulate in a closed environment. But the wavelength of the light in the containers makes it impossible for bees to see colors and find the pollen in the flowering crops. Therefore we’ll look into the usage of nanodrones for pollination. We sure hope bees will never extinct as this might mean the end of humanity, but who knows nanodrone technology could help our bees survive in the future.