Potatoes on Mars

By Memac Ogilvy, Dubai, UAE

For CIP - The International Potato Center

Highly Commended in category Direct

In subcategory Corporate and Public Affairs

Project Description
Famine affects 780 million people globally and climate change is making food security and malnutrition worse. The International Potato Centre wanted the world to know that potatoes are a super crop that hold the key to reversing world hunger.
We came up with an idea that was out of this world – to grow them on Mars. Growing potatoes successfully in a hostile alien world would prove they could survive in extreme climates here on Earth. While Matt Damon was still preparing to play his fictional movie role, our very real mission had already started.
Agency Solution
We assembled, and collaborated with, a cross disciplinary team of CIP, UTEC and NASA scientists representing the fields of agriculture, plant breeding, astrobiology, medicine and physics, designing and building an innovative CubeSat. The hermetically sealed device, with a range of monitoring sensors, was created specifically to replicate conditions on Mars –atmospheric pressure, extreme temperature, CO2 levels, light and radiation.
Soil, almost identical to that on Mars, was trucked in from Peru’s Pampas de la Joya desert and the “super potato” was planted and sealed inside the CubeSat.
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