Today, the Canadian edition of the Deep Space Food Challenge announced the grand prize winner for its years-long competition to discover new solutions to feed astronauts on long-term space missions.

The winner is a food production system co-developed by Canadian companies Ecoation and Maia Farms. The system, called CANGrow, grows different types of fresh foods, including strawberries and cherry tomatoes, and also creates mycelium-derived protein using Maia Farms’ biomass fermentation technology. According to the Canadian Space Agency, the CANGrow creators will receive $380,000 in prize money.

Over the last three years, a number of semifinalists and finalists in the Canadian edition of the Deep Space Food Challenge presented system concepts for generating protein using algae, insects, or mycelium (fungal) as the primary source. One of the reasons I suspect CANGrow won it all is its ability to produce both plant-based proteins via biomass fermentation AND fresh produce. Astronauts will need a full range of nutrients while up in space for years at a time, and a system that produces both veggies and protein is a pretty compelling concept.


The CANGrow system has five grow chambers, four of which are dedicated to growing plants using LED lighting for photosynthesis and a UV-treated hydroponic system for efficient watering. The fifth chamber is a small bioreactor that produces mycelium-derived protein using a biomass fermentation process developed by Maia Farms.

If having two Canadian startups co-develop the CANGrow system wasn’t Canadian enough, according to Ecoation and Maia Farms, the system also incorporates accelerated composting technology from Lomi, a smart composting system developed by British Columbia-based startup Pela.

If you’re wondering who the winner is for the NASA/US edition of the Deep Space Food Challenge, you’ll have to wait a bit. According to the timeline from NASA and the Deep Space Food Challenge, the winners of the grand prize for the NASA challenge still have yet to undergo simulation training in NASA’s Starlab Ground Lab, which will take place this summer. After the systems are tested via simulated flight testing, the winner will be announced in August of this year.

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