Dutch ingredient supplier celebrates ‘giant leap’ as food industry’s first representative in space

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/inhauscreative
Image: Getty/inhauscreative

Related tags precision fermentation cellular agriculture Microbial fermentation

Rotterdam-based Fooditive is boldly going where no food company has gone before to try and solve current food system challenges and drive system transformation.

The precision fermentation specialist has just become a signatory to a new agreement outlining non-binding principles for how businesses should conduct themselves in outer space. It hopes that the lessons learned from space food challenges will enable the food sector to overcome challenges back on earth including food security and self-sufficiency, Fooditive CEO and Founder Moayad Abushokhedim told FoodNavigator.

The Washington Compact on Norms of Behavior for Commercial Space Operations was formalised on Wednesday 8 February 2023 in Washington D.C. and has been signed by 53 individuals, organisations and companies. The compact is similar to the Artemis Accords, which were drawn up to ensure governments behave responsibly in space but is applicable to companies and civilians instead.

Fooditive, which develops innovative, sustainable plant-based ingredients, is the first, and currently the only, signatory from the global food production sector. CEO and Founder Moayad Abushokhedim travelled to the US to sign the compact, which has now been submitted to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Fooditive has taken an interest in the future of space exploration for several years already. It is currently developing a 3D printing technology which can produce food from waste plastic, called BioPrint. It is planned to be ready for use in time for the first mission to land humans on Mars, which is expected to launch in the late 2030s or early 2040s.

Creation of the Washington Compact was spearheaded by the Hague Institute for Global Justice, a non-profit organisation that promotes peace, security and justice. Its President, Lady Sohair Salam, also sits on Fooditive’s Advisory Board.

 “The Washington Compact sets out how businesses should act responsibly and sustainably to ensure that the whole world can benefit from the potential of outer space in ways that are equitable, peaceful and non-exploitative,” explained Abushokhedim. “This aligns exactly with our own vision at Fooditive, and we feel great pride at being invited to sign the compact on behalf of food companies around the world.”

Lessons learned from space can open doors for food companies to overcome challenges on earth 

Since it was established in 2018, Fooditive has used its proprietary fermentation process to create a sweetener, made from side-streams of apples and pears.

Fooditive has also recently launched a new plant-based protein that it claims can be used in the food industry to replace dairy in food and beverage applications.

The company’s otherworldly innovations are designed to assist life on and off earth, Abushokhedim told us.

“We feel that Fooditive Group joining the space global community leads to the betterment of the commercial space ecosystem and we are proud to be the first and only signatory from the global food production sector for the Washington Compact on Norms of Behavior for Commercial Space Operation,” he said. “While we are recognised as a front-runner in the food industry, we believe that the compact is a necessary step towards creating policies that allow for free space for others.”

Innovation and producing highly nutritious food products that make the best use of available resources is critical to solving the food challenges we face today, Abushokhedim stressed. “We must learn to grow plant-based food in more extreme conditions that taste good and become more self-sustainable to maintain food security.

“Food production is the leading cause of nature loss, with almost half of the world's habitable land already used for agricultural purposes. Space food has the potential to develop high-yield crop production that requires less land and energy input.

“The lessons we learn from space food challenges can open doors for companies like Fooditive and other food companies to enter the industry and overcome challenges.

“We hope that our efforts will inspire the younger generation and show them that their dreams can come true, regardless of what they may be. With the vision of Fooditive and the compact, we aim to make space a viable business opportunity while understanding the challenges that we face in the food industry sector.”

fkeu 21 moayad abushokhedim 01
'We aim to make space a viable business opportunity while understanding the challenges that we face in the food industry sector': Fooditive CEO and Founder Moayad Abushokhedim 

NASA announces finalists in challenge to design future astronaut food

The space industry, meanwhile, continues to draw on the creativity of innovators as it looks to test new ways to sustain astronauts in space for months or even years at a time.

NASA has just selected 11 finalists in phase 2 its Deep Space Food Challenge, a competition to extend the limits of humans in space – through food.

This is a first-of-its-kind joint initiative between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, which aims to kickstart future food systems for pioneering missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The competition invites problem-solvers around the world to design, build, and test new ways to sustain astronauts in space for months or even years at a time.

"As we prepare for long-duration human spaceflight, food is essential not only for nutrition, but also familiarity and comfort on long voyages and in isolated environments," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate.

Among the proposed solutions are systems that create food using carbon dioxide and fungal proteins, as well as closed-looped systems designed to grow and sustain greens and vegetables.

Two finalists are Europe-based: Finland’s Solar Foods which uses gas fermentation to produce single-cell proteins; Sweden-based Mycorena has developed a circular production system utilizing a mix of microalgae and fungi, resulting in a microprotein using minimal resources while generating minimal waste.

Judges will now visit each of the Phase 2 finalists at their facilities to evaluate their technologies and the food outputs as well as participating in a demonstration to evaluate the acceptability and ease of the food production process. The judges have also considered the potential use of the technology here on earth in addition to meeting needs for long-term deep space missions. The winners of Phase 2 are scheduled to be announced in April 2023.

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