Strawberries in space: North Vancouver firm wins $380,000 with out-of-this-world menu

VANCOUVER — Space food doesn’t have to mean Tang and puréed meat in a tube, with a North Vancouver company instead coming up with a menu including mushroom bacon and fresh strawberries to win a contest to devise ways to make food beyond Earth.

Ecoaction Innovative Solutions has won the Deep Space Food Challenge with their CanGrow Modular Food Production System, and will receive $380,000 in funding as the grand prize winner in the contest hosted by the Canadian Space Agency and NASA. 

Ecoaction CEO Saber Miresmailli says his team aims to make astronauts feel like they’re dining in a five-star restaurant with a menu featuring steak substitute, a mixed salad and fresh strawberries for dessert. 

A joint statement from the Canadian Space Agency and NASA says the CANGrow system has the potential to sustain astronauts during long space missions, while also addressing food security in isolated communities on Earth. 

It says CANGrow, an enclosed growing unit, has the potential to generate over 700 kilograms of nutrient-dense food every year, including strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and the root of a fungus that becomes a meat substitute. 

Miresmailli says the Canada Space Agency has been helping them throughout the three-year journey to the prize, and he’s encouraged to see the judges not only love their invention but also their food.

He says he hopes the technology won’t just benefit astronauts but also could be used in Northern Canada where weather conditions aren’t suitable for producing fresh food.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2024. 

The Canadian Press