First-ever vegetable crop harvested in Antarctic greenhouse
A group of German aerospace engineers have managed to grow vegetables for the first time in a laboratory in Antarctica.
It is a horticultural project designed to supply food to humans living in extreme conditions, such as outer space, website Tech2 reported.
Scientists managed to harvest 3.6 kilos of lettuce, 18 cucumbers, 70 radishes and spices (basil, parsley, green onion and cilantro). They all grew in a high-tech greenhouse while the outside temperature touched -20ºC (-4ºF).
Scientists follow the evolution of plants by computer.
The operative was by the engineer and Antarctic gardener Paul Zabel, who spends three to four hours a day nourishing and checking the garden. In addition, he maintains regular contact with the control center at the DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen, Germany, from where plant cultivation is remotely monitored.
"After planting in mid-February, I had to face some problems unexpected, such as minor system failures and the strongest storm of the year," Zabel was quoted as saying.
These plants grow without soil, sunlight or pesticides in a facility located 400 meters from the Neumayer III polar research station in Germany. Every two minutes its roots are watered with a nutritious substance by means of a computer-controlled system.
Expectations are that around four to five kilograms of fresh vegetables will eventually be harvested per week.