Houston, we have a salad: how Eatmore Sprouts & Greens helped send sprouts to space

 

Glenn and Carmen Wakeling’s company, Eatmore Sprouts & Greens, has a clear mission: to provide locally grown, organic sprouts that support a happier, healthier planet. Little did they know that one day, their sprouts would travel out of B.C., beyond planet Earth, and up to the International Space Station.

Last fall, a student visited the Wakelings’ bullfrogpowered farm on Vancouver Island to learn more about alfalfa. The student and his teammates were studying the effects of a zero-gravity environment on the sprouts, and they entered their project in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

A panel of NASA employees and academics selected the project for a real-life space mission. On July 25th, alfalfa seeds from Eatmore Sprouts & Greens were launched in a SpaceX rocket to boldly go where no bullfrogpowered plant had gone before: the International Space Station. These seeds will be sprouted while in space.

SpaceX Dragon launches to ISS
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on July 25th, 2019. Credits: NASA

Why alfalfa sprouts?

Carmen helped the students understand the pros and cons of sprouts so that they could write a compelling proposal. They learned about nutrition, soaking times, and sanitation.

In space, astronauts’ bones can become weak because they aren’t bearing as much weight as they would on Earth. “The boys focused on Alfalfa because it is high in vitamin K, and this helps reverse the bone density loss that can happen in space,” Carmen told us. This would be especially useful on long space flights like future trips to Mars.

Alfalfa could also be an ideal food for astronauts because of how quickly it grows—it only takes four days to go from seed to snack.

Plus, items destined for space should be as light and compact as possible to help save on rocket fuel. Alfalfa certainly fits the bill, considering that every kilogram of seeds produces ten kilograms of sprouts!

Eatmore Sprouts & Greens will soon be moving to a new, energy-efficient location that will allow them to harvest the heat from their refrigeration units to reduce their energy needs.

What’s next for the space sprouts?

Astronauts will run the experiment for about four weeks before returning the alfalfa to Earth. Meanwhile, the students will do an identical experiment here on the ground. To find out if zero gravity affected the sprouts, the celestial sprouts will be compared to the Earthly ones.

The students hope to show that sprouts would be an easy-to-grow, nutritious food source for long space missions. Who knows, maybe Eatmore Sprouts & Greens’ alfalfa will one day feed travellers on Mars and beyond.

Luckily, you don’t have to be an astronaut to eat space-worthy sprouts. Try your alfalfa in an Eatmore shrimp roll.

“All humans should experience growing and harvesting (and eating) vegetables. There is just nothing else quite like eating a tomato fresh from the garden to make you realize the importance of our Earth as a host for us.” –Carmen Wakeling