German scientists in Antarctica have harvested the first crop of vegetables grown without soil or light.
Researchers at Germany’s Neumayer Station III picked 3.6 kilograms (almost 8 pounds) of salad greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes grown in an experimental greenhouse as temperatures outside dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius and the sun barely peeked over the horizon.
The experiments are aimed at demonstrating how to supply astronauts with fresh produce in space and also combating vegetable shortages in harsh climates.
The German Aerospace Center (DLR), which coordinates the project, said Thursday that by May, scientists hope to harvest 4 to 5 kilograms (8.8 to 11 pounds) of fruits and vegetables a week.
While NASA has successfully grown greens on the International Space Station, the DLR project will produce a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. So far, radishes, salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs, including basil, parsley, chives and cilantro, have been successfully grown.
“You have to be patient when growing strawberries. Here we are still waiting for successful sowing,” DLR project manager Daniel Schubert said.