Antarctica greenhouse producing cucumbers, tomatoes and much more in Mars-like test

The DLR researcher Paul Zabel poses with kohlrabi harvested from the EDEN ISS Antarctica greenhouse.


Fresh vegetables of Mars, anyone?

An Antarctic greenhouse known as EDEN ISS not only survived the polar night, but emerged from it with a harvest for local researchers, allowing for the hope that future Mars colonists could also enjoy fresh food during their time on the Red Planet, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) officials said in a statement.

Regularly withstand temperatures below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius), the cash delivered, herbs, lettuce and other vegetables to 10 people who were riding the winter in the remote station, called the Alfred Wegener Institute Neumayer Station III. It is the first time that the greenhouse is managed by the winter. [How Living on Mars Could Challenge Colonists (Infographic)]

“After more than half a year of operation in Antarctica, the self-supporting greenhouse concept seems to be effective for climatically demanding regions on Earth, as well as for future manned missions to the moon and Mars,” DLR officials said in the statement.

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“The harvest is now so abundant that there is not always directly at the table, and we now have the luxury of spreading our consumption of a number of cool lettuce and herbs over several days,” Paul Zabel, a DLR researcher who works with EDEN ISS, said in the statement. “The wintering team members are always looking for their next fresh meal.”

The distances recorded 170 lbs. (77 kg) of lettuce, 112 kg. (51 kg) cucumbers, 64 kg. (29 kg) tomatoes, 26 pounds. (12 kg) of kohlrabi, 20 lbs. (9 kg) herbs and 11 kg. (5 kg) of radish.

All crops were produced in a cultivated area of only 140 square feet (13 square meters). However, the peppers and strawberries produced a harvest, most likely due to pollination problems, according to the statement.

While Zabel tend to the planets, if possible, light conditions in the Antarctic often prevented him from walking the quarter mile or so (about 400 m) outside the greenhouse. In those cases, a control center in Bremen, Germany, took as long as three consecutive days.

When the circumstances permitted, Zabel would carry out urgent repairs, such as repairing a screw that came loose in the thermal system.

Other tasks for Zabel included to look at the quality of the harvest, the picking up of microbiological samples and checking of the systems (light, temperature regime, and the feeding of air enriched with nutrients and carbon dioxide). The responsibilities included reporting on how the fresh food improved the health of his team members.

“We attach a lot of value to it and enjoy the fact that regular fresh salad, herbs and vegetables from the greenhouse to enrich our diet. The positive effect is noticeable,” Bernhard Gropp, Neumayer Station III manager, said in the same statement. Without the fresh produce, the crew would have to live on freeze-dried supplies for the next flight to Antarctica in October, DLR officials noted.

The EDEN ISS project website also provides regular updates for the public, including photos of the individual subjects that are taken every day. You can follow the project on or by using the hashtag #MadeInAntarctica on Twitter.

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