Eden-ISS, Greenhouse In Antarctica

The frozen wastes of Antarctica are no place to expect to harvest fresh vegetables - or are they?

Antarctica's nonstop winters make it impossible to grow food outdoors. Fruits and vegetables are instead shipped long distances from overseas, just a few times per year.

But engineers at the German Aerospace Center (GAC) will soon build a high-tech farm that will allow Antarcticans to harvest produce.

The farm will feature a year-round greenhouse that can grow food for researchers at the Neumayer III polar station on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf.

Called the Eden-ISS, the farm exists inside a climate-controlled shipping container. The greenhouse relies on a technique called vertical farming, in which food grows on trays or hanging modules under LEDs instead of natural sunlight.

Hydroponics, growing plants without soil, has a long history; the first person to write about it was Francis Bacon, in 1627.

But, science fiction authors have written about hydroponics for several generations (or more); plants without soil has a real appeal for growing food in space (as in The Planet Strappers, a 1961 novella by Raymond Z. Gallun).

As soon as I read this article about growing food hydroponically indoors with artificial light in the frozen arctic, I thought about a fantasy novel The Walls of Air (1983), by Barbara Hambly. In the story, some of the last remaining humans have gone to ground in the Keep, a magically created redoubt in the frozen north. They're safe, but how to grow food? Magical LEDs hung over hydroponics? Exactly.

"These were what blew us away the most," Gil said, picking up one of the white shapes and tossing it to Ingold. They were everywhere - under the machinery and the pump rooms, and piles in the store rooms, and strung in nets over the tanks in the hydroponic gardens...

"Indeed." Ingold turned the polyhedron in his fingers for a moment, as if testing its weight or proportions. Then, quite suddenly, it glowed to life in his hands, the soft white radiance of it warming the angles of his wind darkened face. He tossed it to Gil, who caught it ineptly on cringing palms. It was quite cool. "Lamps," he said...

"... With this kind of light we could get the gardens going again. With hydroponics, we could grow car loads of stuff in almost no space...

Via Antarctica is getting a farm that can grow produce even when it's -100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

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