Coincidentally riding on the waves of the Ridley Scott's 2015 sci-fi film, "The Martian," starring Matt Damon, scientists are now planning to raise potatoes in conditions that are Mars-like.
The first step towards another "giant leap for mankind" is to create a simulation on Earth, and if all goes well, the end result is a controlled dome on Mars that is capable of farming and producing potatoes.
A laboratory will serve as the breeding ground for the cultivation of potatoes, with the atmospheric conditions replicating that of the Red Planet. The soil used in the lab will be taken from the Pampas de La Joya desert in Peru, which is reportedly identical to that of Mars.
The experiment is spearheaded by NASA and the Peru-based International Potato Center (CIP). Together, they seek to demonstrate that even the most inhospitable environments can, in fact, grow potatoes.
It is the goal of NASA and the International Potato Center to raise awareness and fund research for farmers in places with high levels of poverty and malnutrition.
"We need people to understand that if we can grow potatoes in extreme conditions like those on Mars, we can save lives on Earth," shared Joel Ranck, Head of Communications for the International Potato Center.
Today, 842 million people worldwide are affected by famine. An increase in poor soil conditions as well as the prevalence of pests and disease have been brought about by global warming. Together, these factors have limited harvest, particularly those where food insecurity and poverty are already rampant.
Enter the International Potato Center, which has been testing the robustness of potatoes in the most unlikely places. Potatoes are a great source of zinc, iron and vitamin C. They also have critical micronutrients that are vulnerable communities all around the world lack. The scientists who work with the International Potato Center are looking to increase food security, fight malnutrition and lift people out of poverty through research and development innovations.
This experiment will help the scientists understand atmospheric changes on Mars and will consequently provide more research material for NASA. This step could very well pioneer space farming for future manned missions to the solar system.
Valdivia-Silva currently leads the project's science team. Will Rust, Memac Ogilvy Dubai Creative Director, came up with the idea and is leading the entire project.