How can we feed astronauts on multi-year space missions?
TEAM ASTRONOSH declares: insects will be part of the solution!
Our multidisciplinary team is pioneering the future of food with an innovative, circular food system that produces nutritious, tasty fare for astronauts deep in space, and people on Earth. Insects are a major part of our solution, as they are already a sustainable food source known for their delicious and versatile flavors. Our system leverages this diversity to produce a range of highly-personalized food choices that are on-demand and made-to-order.
The ASTRONOSH system consists of three key components. The Microfarm grows the insects, reproducing and harvesting them on rotation, while the Protoprocessor converts the insects into foodstuff ingredients that can be stored or used immediately. The Foodformer combines the insect-based ingredients with other ingredients and transforms them into delectable food products.
Every five days, one of the mealworm colonies is harvested from a cylindrical farm centrifuge. Some larvae are selected and removed for further development and future breeding, while the rest are automatically harvested by the Protoprocessor. The harvested larvae are heated and dried, and then ground into a coarse mealworm powder. The powder is then divided and sent to the Foodformer via two conveyance tubes. One tube leads to a powder packaging unit, for storage and future use, and the other leads to a mixer that adds water to create a coarse food slurry that can be formed into various food products.
At the Foodformer, users can select their food choice and add ingredient cartridges. The Foodformer then mixes them with the mealworm slurry and forms the mix into a range of bespoke food products. These can be cooked in the onboard oven, frozen for later, or consumed immediately. Even the automated cleaning system produces food in the form of mealworm protein drinks and shakes.
In addition to providing astronauts with a much-needed menu diversification that combats menu fatigue, the ASTRONOSH system could also be beneficial for areas on Earth. It could provide more independence in certain areas, such as remote arctic regions, lengthy submarine missions, and dense urban food deserts, by reducing reliance on overly-processed, prepackaged foods and costly scheduled food deliveries. It could also revitalize important food traditions within the United States, while promoting the healthy benefits of a food source that is already common elsewhere.
But unlike other comprehensive food systems that are found on Earth, ASTRONOSH combines farming, food processing, and meal preparation into a single, unified work of technology that is regenerative. Therefore, our living system is circular, not linear; because deep space missions will require regenerative food systems that sustainably produce safe, nutritious, and healthy food for years.
TEAM ASTRONOSH! Let’s pioneer the future of food!!