I know there are similar questions on here already, yet this is different because I don't care about traditional farming in this question.


This meant for food production on interplanetary and interstellar vessels, space stations and remote outposts. Assume that:

  • energy is not an issue

  • fertilizers and materials are not an issue due to recycling and mining

  • all variables are under control and optimized (CO2, temperature, humidity, ...)

  • automation makes labor intensity irrelevant

Given the availability of genetic engineering, vertical farming, bioreactors (for synthetic meat), insects, mushrooms, aquaculture, ... What is the minimum space(1) required to provide a healthy and diverse diet to one person?

(1) Any answer should give the space estimate in $m^3$, $m^2$ requirement only if relevant, and in addition to this a mass requirement in $kg$.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "bioreactors" meaning what exactly? I can think of several different pieces of technology, real and imagined, that have been called that. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash Synthetic meat production. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 12:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Blecccch. Snozzberry-flavored yeast for lunch again. Makes me want to overthrow my (fictional) corrupt, dystopian government. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 13:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user535733 The only tyranny enforcing this kind of food production is that of the rocket equation. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


First we need to set a standard, given that crew selection criteria should eliminate people who have specialised needs the RDI will do. That means we need 2000 food calories worth constituted as 50g of assimilable Proteins, 275g of assimilable Carbohydrates, 80g of assimilable Fats, about 30g of Dietary Fibre and a bunch of minerals that, to my thinking, fall under "materials" and we don't need to worry about them. The vitamins we'll get at the same time as the major constituents as well.

Micoculture is going to be the key to minimising the space and weight needed, we're talking about Fusarium venenatum for a start, because it's the most intensive protein production method we know of. But we're looking at it as the foundation for creating a GM yeast that forms a whole food. We need approximately 500g a day of Micoproduct Complete FoodTM that's about 10% Protein, 55% Carbohydrates, 16% Fat, and 6% Fibre, the remainder being additives like salt, potassium, flavours, water, etc... Given certain recent advances we should be able to engineer yeasts to produce any extra vitamins, flavours or texturing compounds we need to add.

As we're going to retain Fusarium venenatum's growth rate and it doubles in mass every five hours under ideal growth conditions you're talking about about 0.034g of yeast culture per person per day plus support equipment, and another 2000g liquid water per person or a bit more depending on the humidity and temperature in the vessel for hydration. This is the minimum, don't expect people to enjoy this diet.


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