Two King Abdullah University for Science and Technology agricultural technology startups, Natufia and Edama, are among the 10 international winners in NASA’s competitive Deep Space Food Challenge.
NASA and the Canadian Space Agency jointly recognized Natufia and Edama for bringing innovative food production technologies to space. A show highlighting the challenge aired on NASA Television on November 9, with details about the winning solutions and what is next for the winners.
NASA’s Grand Challenges are open to companies that offer solutions that solve space-related problems with novel capabilities. As astronauts need a healthy diet in space, the Deep Space Food Challenge called for new food production technologies that require minimal resources and generate limited waste to provide nutritious food for long-duration missions.
Based at the KAUST Research and Technology Park, Natufia and Edama joined forces as partners in the competition, as each contributed different areas of expertise for the challenge. The duo’s joint solution brought together advanced automated hydroponics, macroalgae farming, and composting systems, and it was integrated into a low-maintenance, user-friendly, closed-loop food production ecosystem.
The system focuses on efficiently recovering and reusing waste resources to maximize productivity and reduce the dependence on external inputs. It can supply a diverse and nutritious menu of fruit, vegetables, and algae-based dietary supplements.
Dr. Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation, said: “The progress of Natufia and Edama demonstrates the strong entrepreneurial ecosystem we are building in Saudi Arabia to solve problems that are relevant to the whole world and all of humanity through science and technology.”
Both startups have focused on solving food-security issues in Saudi Arabia and believe soil-free cultivation is a powerful tool in sustainable farming, particularly water-use efficiency. As the first company of its kind in Saudi Arabia, Edama offers organic waste recycling solutions for municipalities and small-scale communities, aiming to transform the way waste is managed in the Kingdom.