I've looked around the forum but didn't find an answer to this particular question. In short, what food could realistically be produced in a space station assuming current (or near future) technological constraints?
Let's assume that we want to build a space station that is entirely self-sufficient (at least in the realm of food and water production). The station will carry a commune of say 10,000 people. It rotates enough to mirror gravity on Earth.
Now we want to create farms or food factories to feed the populace, but what is the most viable crop/livestock in space?
Food pills, protein powders, or any other form of artificial supplements aren't considered, so disregard that as an option.
The way I see it, the food must meet some or all of the following criteria in order to work in such constrained settings:
- The food must be able to grow or be produced in as compact an area as possible (how much can be produced per square feet, for example)
- The food must be calorie or nutrient dense (more bang for the buck)
- The food must be energy efficient in its production (that is, not require as many resources such as light, fertilizer, water, etc.) OR take little time to produce
- The food must have a long shelf life (or require little energy for preservation)
- The food must be somewhat palatable (not tasteless or downright unappetizing, this would be subjective)
Given these criteria, I can think of a few food items that space dwellers could eat. I'll list them out to get the ball rolling.
For vegetables and fruits:
- Potatoes (they are nutrient dense, and have high calories per acre grown)
- Sweet Potatoes, Leeks, & Parsnips (high calories per acre grown)
- Quinoa (high protein concentration)
- Beans (low water intake needed)
- Blueberries (superfood, but may require lots of water)
- Salmon (very nutritious, but high water requirements)
- Sardines (very nutritious, but high water requirements)
- Chicken (decently high in protein, moderate calories, small livestock and less energy required versus pork and beef)
- Eggs (very nutritious, but somewhat energy intensive to produce)
Forms of Food Preservation:
- Salting (albeit obviously high in salt content)
- Pickling (possibly not efficient)
- Drying or smoked (dried foods such as beans, pemmican, and jerky have long shelf lives and high nutrient content, also easy to store)
- Refrigeration (useful in the short run, but ultimately energy-intensive)
- Vacuum packaging (given correct packaging material, very viable option)
- Seaweed (high nutrient content, necessary for thyroid health, possibly high on water content)
- Quorn/high-protein fungus
These are just a few I can come up with.
Does anyone have any thoughts on what they see a space station producing based on this criteria? Or are there any additional parts to the criteria I listed that should be considered?