NASA Harvest Deputy Director and Manager, Dr. Alyssa Whitcraft, recently moderated a panel focusing on food security challenges across the globe and the necessary steps to combat them. The panel was part of a webinar publicizing NASA’s and the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) Deep Space Food Challenge (DSFC), an international competition where participants develop new methods for producing food during long-term space missions. In addition to the celestial ambitions, DSFC hopes that these innovative methods will create new terrestrial applications that can be used to help overcome food insecurity on Earth.
The DSFC was jointly developed by NASA and CSA, with both organizations creating the challenge statement, goals, and criteria. However, each agency will be managing its own “track” in the challenge, with the eligibility, selection, and prize varying between the two.
The overarching goal of the DSFC is to create “novel food production technologies or systems that require minimum inputs and maximize safe, nutritious, and palatable food outputs for long duration space missions, which also have the potential to benefit people on Earth.” As Dr. Whitcraft noted during the webinar: “The [food security] challenges that we face on Earth are uniquely human and will persist no matter where we go.”
The panel also included Merlyn Recinos [VP of Business Development, Arctic Fresh], Dr. Kiersten Johnson [Food Security Monitoring and Evaluation, USAID], and Olivier Demers-Dubé [Senior Innovation Advisor, Zone Agtech. Panel discussion focused on food insecurity in Arctic communities, the role that local agriculture plays in ensuring adequate nutrition, and ensuring agricultural innovations don’t leave vulnerable communities behind.
Phase 1 of the Challenge is now open, where competitors are tasked to design their novel food system. Interested participants should note that DSFC is not looking for a complete solution that completely provides all nutritional needs for a given mission, but instead are seeking technologies or systems that “contribute significantly to and can be integrated into a comprehensive food system.”
The registration deadline is June 25th and submissions are due for all teams by July 30th, with Phase 1 winners announced in September 2021.
Although prizes vary between the tracks, the NASA track provides up to $500,000 in total potential awards, with as many as 20 teams receiving a $25,000 prize. The CSA track offers up to $30,000 to each of 10 teams, with a total potential award of $300,000. Competitors who are unable to meet eligibility requirements for either track can participate in the international track where the top 10 winners will be recognized by both agencies.