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The most energy-efficient method to produce food for people

Image credit: Umberto Salvagnin / flickr

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 26, 2020
Can we come up with the most energy and resource-efficient nutrient production method that could be applied on an industrial scale? We will need it if we are going to feed ourselves:
  • in enclosed habitats during space travel
  • colonizing other planets
  • extreme conditions on earth (expanding deserts, frozen lands)
  • overpopulation on earth
With space-exploration but also global warming and overpopulation upon us, now might be the time to master the production of essential nutrients in enclosed systems.

Our waste production should be factored in (converted back to nutrients)

Creative contributions

Choice of microbial species to convert waste to food directly

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 26, 2020
Professor Christopher House's lab is working on waste treatment via anaerobic digestion followed by methanotrophic growth of Methylococcus capsulatus to produce a Vegemite-tasting protein/lipid-rich biomass that can be directly consumed. Alternatively, it could be used to feed other nutrient producing species. They built and tested a fixed-film, flow-through, anaerobic reactor to treat the wastewater. During steady-state operation, the reactor achieved a 97% chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal rate with an organic loading rate of 1740 g d-1 m-3 and a hydraulic retention time of 12.25 d. They tested the nutritional content: The M. capsulatus biomass consisted of 52% protein and 36% lipids, the H. desiderata biomass consisted of 15% protein and 7% lipids, and the Thermus aquaticus biomass consisted of 61% protein and 16% lipids. Professor House says “It’s a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite, where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo’.” Could the above species be genetically engineered to produce all the essential nutrients we need? Could something be done about the vegemite taste?:)

[1]Steinberg LM, Kronyak RE, House CH. Coupling of anaerobic waste treatment to produce protein- and lipid-rich bacterial biomass. Life Sci Space Res (Amst). 2017;15:32-42. doi:10.1016/j.lssr.2017.07.006

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General comments

Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 months ago
Cool webinars on the topic https://youtu.be/hdXoczbfhLY
Darko Savic
Darko Savic5 months ago
Nitrogen and carbon dioxide are readily available in the Martian atmosphere. The water can be mined from ice. Nutrients can be taken from “regolith” - the dust that covers Mars. It's rich in phosphorus, sulphur, and calcium.
Darko Savic
Darko Savic7 months ago
Nasa is giving 500K in prizes to people that come up with good ideas on how to keep the astronauts fed in future space exploration missions - https://youtu.be/pVDnGdlIMmA

Pretty much what I was going for with the above session
Darko Savic
Darko Savic8 months ago
We are a few years away from moon/mars bases attempting to feed people without relying on earth deliveries.