CAN (BC): North Vancouver company builds system for deep space farming

If you’ve seen The Martian, you’ll know that Matt Damon survived 543 Mars days by growing potatoes in the native soil, fertilized with his own poop. “That probably would not work,” says Gavin Schneider, vice president of agronomy at Ecoation Innovative Solutions.

The North Vancouver-based firm – known for building artificial intelligence systems that enhance the efficiency of food production – is developing new technology for astronauts to farm nutritious and tasty food on long-term space missions.

On Thursday, judges from the Canadian Space Agency visited Ecoation to evaluate the firm’s growing system as part of the Deep Space Food Challenge, which is awarding more than half-a-million dollars in funding to finalists. Meanwhile, NASA is evaluating U.S. companies in the stateside portion of the contest.

Currently, a group of top-10 Canadian semi-finalists are fighting for four finalist spots. The winners, which will be announced this spring, will take home $100,000 each. Next year, a grand prize of $380,000 will be awarded to the top firm.


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