10. October 2017
Heading off to the eternal ice

EDEN ISS green­house en route to Antarc­ti­ca

The load­ing at the port of Ham­burg be­gins
Image 1/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

The loading at the port of Hamburg begins

The EDEN ISS green­house will be en route to Antarc­ti­ca for the next 11 weeks.
In­to the bel­ly of the car­go ship
Image 2/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Into the belly of the cargo ship

Two con­tain­ers make up the EDEN ISS green­house.
EDEN ISS green­house on the way to the Antarc­tic
Image 3/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

EDEN ISS greenhouse on the way to the Antarctic

Two con­tain­ers make up the EDEN ISS green­house.
Paul Zabel in the EDEN ISS green­house
Image 4/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

Paul Zabel in the EDEN ISS greenhouse

DLR sci­en­tist Paul Zabel is mov­ing to work in the EDEN ISS green­house in Antarc­ti­ca for one year.
In full splendour: vegetable farming during the EDEN ISS trial run
In full splen­dour: veg­etable farm­ing dur­ing the EDEN ISS tri­al run
Image 5/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

In full splendour: vegetable farming during the EDEN ISS trial run

From the end of June to the end of Au­gust 2017 cu­cum­bers, toma­toes, radish­es, pep­pers, sal­ads and herbs thrived in the test run of the EDEN ISS green­house.
The EDEN ISS green­house dur­ing the tri­al run at the DLR site in Bre­men
Image 6/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

The EDEN ISS greenhouse during the trial run at the DLR site in Bremen

Cu­cum­bers, toma­toes, radish­es, pep­pers, let­tuce and herbs flour­ished in the 12-me­tre con­tain­er green­house dur­ing the tri­al run from late June un­til Au­gust 2017.
EDEN ISS green­house in the South Pole
Image 7/8, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

EDEN ISS greenhouse in the South Pole

Dur­ing the Antarc­tic win­ter, the en­vi­ron­ment is ex­treme and hos­tile to life. Tem­per­a­tures drop to mi­nus 30 de­grees Cel­sius and no sun­light breaks the dark­ness of the po­lar night for months. The green­house has par­tic­u­lar­ly ef­fec­tive in­su­la­tion, as from De­cem­ber 2017 on­wards it must de­fy Antarc­tic con­di­tions.
Neu­may­er Sta­tion III in the Antarc­tic
Image 8/8, Credit: Alfred-Wegener-Institut /Thomas Steuer (CC-BY 4.0) .

Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic

For one year, DLR en­gi­neer Paul Zabel will call the Neu­may­er Sta­tion III, run by the Al­fred We­gen­er In­sti­tute, home. From De­cem­ber 2017 he will build and op­er­ate a green­house there as part of the EDEN ISS project.

  • DLR scientist Paul Zabel moves to the Antarctic for one year with the EDEN ISS greenhouse
  • Test run in Bremen produces more than 40 kilograms of fresh vegetables
  • Plant cultivation without soil, with optimised light, carbon dioxide content and closed water cycle
  • Focus: Space, biosystems

The venture to cultivate plants in the Antarctic is gathering momentum: on 8 October 2017 the special EDEN ISS greenhouse container, packed safely away on a cargo ship, left the Port of Hamburg en route to the Ekström ice shelf in the Antarctic. The journey will last approximately 11 weeks. The EDEN ISS team is expected to receive the high-tech greenhouse at the German Neumayer Station III of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) shortly before Christmas. In this project, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is collaborating with international partners to investigate the fully self-sufficient cultivation of vegetables to supply food in harsh climatic environments and for future manned missions to the Moon and Mars.

Rich harvest in the trial run

Cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, lettuce and herbs flourished in the 12-metre container greenhouse during the trial run from late June until August 2017. "The trial run at the DLR site in Bremen yielded a rich harvest," says Project Coordinator Daniel Schubert from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. "We are confident that everything will proceed smoothly in the harsh environment of the Antarctic as well."

In total, the researchers produced over 40 kilograms of fresh vegetables over the course of the test phase. What makes it so fascinating? There is no loss of water. The only water that leaves the self-sufficient greenhouse system is in the harvested fruits. The rest is recycled and reintroduced into the plants. Under special artificial light, in a temperature-controlled environment without soil and supplied with selected nutrient solutions, the plants can grow faster and more productively than in their natural environment.

Vegetables #MadeinAntarctica

The actual crop cultivation experiment in Antarctica will begin at the end of December 2017. DLR scientist Paul Zabel will move to the Antarctic, where he will live for one year at the Neumayer III research station and work at the EDEN ISS greenhouse. He will be part of the winter crew staffing the Neumayer III Antarctic station operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). "Scientists live and working all year round in the research station, despite the harsh Antarctic. During the summer, there are up to 50 people at the station. In the winter, however, only nine people remain there: one cook, three engineers, one doctor and four scientists," says the long-time Station Manager Eberhard Kohlberg. This is the winter team that Zabel will join as the tenth member.

Team colleagues from the EDEN ISS project will help Zabel with the construction and commissioning of the greenhouse, before leaving him in charge of running the greenhouse and cultivating the crops. The harvest during the months of darkness will enrich the diet of the people at the Neumayer III station. At the same time, the project will imitate the supply scenario for a manned mission to Mars.

"The preparations for the winter sojourn are exciting and already account for much of my day's work," says Zabel. “It gives you an idea of just how painstaking the preparations for a space mission are, when every eventuality has to be considered and one must be prepared for everything." Zabel has already completed survival training in the Alps as a member of the Neumayer III winter team. He has also attended a number of seminars on the technical systems at the station and a one-week fire-fighting training course. And there is still a lot of preparatory work ahead before his departure in December.

Food production of the future

Global food production is among the key societal challenges of the 21st century. The world's rising population, coupled with the simultaneous upheaval associated with climate change, demand new methods to cultivate crops, even in climatically inhospitable regions. A closed greenhouse system will enable crop growth independent of the weather, Sun and season in deserts and low-temperature regions – as well as for future manned missions to the Moon and Mars – while also reducing water consumption and eliminating the need for pesticides and insecticides. The EDEN ISS project will put this model for a future greenhouse through its paces for one year during a long-term trial in the extreme conditions of the Antarctic. System assembly is planned for late December 2017 to February 2018. Research operations will follow and are scheduled to run through the Antarctic winter and until December 2018.

International cooperation in EDEN ISS

The EDEN ISS project will be conducted during an overwintering mission at the German Antarctic station Neumayer III, in collaboration with the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). A large number of other international partners are contributing to a research consortium under the auspices of DLR, ensuring that the greenhouse will work smoothly in the Antarctic: Wageningen University and Research (Netherlands), Airbus Defence and Space (Germany), LIQUIFER (Austria), the National Research Council (Italy), the University of Guelph (Canada), Enginsoft (Italy), Thales Alenia Space (Italy), Arescosmo (Italy), Heliospectra (Sweden), the Limerick Institute of Technology (Ireland) and Telespazio (Italy) all form part of the consortium of the EDEN ISS project. The project is financed with funds from the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under project number 636501.

  • Falk Dambowsky
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3959
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Daniel Schubert
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Space Sys­tems
    Robert-Hooke-Straße 7
    28359 Bremen
  • Paul Zabel
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Telephone: +49 421 24420-1273
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
  • Dr. Eberhard Kohlberg
    Al­fred We­gen­er In­sti­tut (AWI)
    Telephone: +49 471 4831-1422

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