EDEN ISS — Ground Demonstration of Plant Cultivation Technologies for Safe Food Production in Space

EDEN ISS Press Kit – May 2017 

EDEN ISS Facility Complete – read Press Release


Introduction to Project Partners
Press & Publications
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
EDEN ISS project images
EDEN ISS project logo
EDEN ISS project flyer

EDEN ISS project summary brochure


Upon request, we are happy to provide you with TV-ready b-roll, with topics covering the exterior/interior of the Mobile Test Facility, Future Exploration Greenhouse, and Mission Control

Aufzeichung der Pressekonferenz zu EDEN-ISS vom 13. September 2018 

EDEN ISS – growing food for space exploration

EDEN ISS focuses on the ‘Ground Demonstration of Plant Cultivation Technologies and ­Operation in Space’ and the enhancement of those technologies, ‘For Safe Food Production on-board the International Space Station (ISS) and Future Human Space Exploration Vehicles and Planetary Outposts.’

Fresh vegetables for astronauts in space 


Vegetables from the EDEN ISS greenhouse, Photo: Paul Rosero, 2017


Project Introduction

Sustained human presence in space requires the development of new technologies to maintain environmental control, manage waste, provide water, oxygen and food and to keep astronauts healthy and psychologically fit. Space cannot provide these survival-critical elements, found in abundance here on fertile Earth. 

A closed loop system can be engineered however, to make continuous use of all generated material as feedback material within the same artificial environment. A bio-regenerative life support system, using higher plants including vascular (flowering) plants as work horses, can be advantageously employed for the production of food and oxygen, the reduction of carbon dioxide, and for water recycling and waste management. The presence of fresh crops in controlled-environments can also have a positive impact on the psychological well-being of the crew.


A greenhouse as life support system for living on the moon and Mars


Interior of the Mobile Test Facility, Visualization: LIQUIFER Systems Group, 2017


Before use in space, technologies are being tested on Earth under extreme conditions, including the Antarctic

EDEN ISS in Antarctica, Visualization: LIQUIFER Systems Group, 2017


EDEN ISS is developing a Mobile Test Facility (MTF) for the production of food and resources in a closed environment. The facility is built to provide fresh produce for the crew at the Neumayer III Antarctic station and serves as an analogue environment for testing plant cultivation under extreme environmental and logistical conditions; in preparation for spaceflight-ready systems and technologies for controlled-plant growth in space and on-board the ISS.


Novel nutrition supply for aeroponic plants, special LED lighting systems, effective mould control, and enhanced-remote-diagnosis through visual monitoring are the innovative developments of project EDEN ISS

Red pepper from EDEN ISS, Photo: Paul Rosero, 2017


EDEN ISS is developing an advanced nutrient delivery system, a high-performance LED lighting system, a bio-detection and decontamination system, imaging systems for monitoring plant health and technologies for ensuring food quality and safety within the MTF. The EDEN ISS consortium has designed and is testing essential Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technologies and is using a cultivation strategy that utilises the International Standard Payload Rack (ISPR), with compatible dimensions for spaceflight-ready payloads. A Future Exploration Greenhouse (FEG) has been designed and built, to test a large-scale production system. 


A greenhouse for planetary space exploration and for preparing a plant-growth experiment on the International Space Station





International Space Station (ISS), Photo: NASA


The EDEN ISS MTF, will be used to study the mass flow relationships for the ISPR demonstrator and FEG. In addition to technology development and validation, food safety and plant handling procedures are being developed. These are integral aspects of the interaction between the crew and plants within closed environments.

In December 2017, the EDEN ISS Mobile Test Facility will commence a one-year deployment phase in Antarctica at the highly-isolated Neumayer Station III, operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute. It is foreseen that the container-sized greenhouse of the EDEN ISS project will provide year-round fresh food supplementation for the Neumayer Station III crew.

For one year, fresh tomato, bell pepper, lettuce and chard will be grown in the EDEN ISS greenhouse for the Neumayer Station III crew in Antarctica

Fourteen international organizations, including universities, research institutes, corporations and small businesses have come together to develop systems that will help to sustain humans in space.

The EDEN ISS consortium is comprised of leading European, Canadian and American experts in the domain of human spaceflight and CEA. The EDEN ISS scientific advisory board consists of the top scientists in the field of CEA from Russia, USA, Japan, Italy and Germany.

14 leading European, Canadian and US-American universities, research institutes, corporations and SMEs collaborate to develop project EDEN ISS

The consortium is led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Space Systems in Bremen, Germany and includes the following partners:

  • DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany
  • LIQUIFER Systems Group, Austria
  • National Research Council, Italy
  • University of Guelph, Canada   
  • Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany  
  • Enginsoft S.p.A., Italy
  • Airbus Defense and Space, Germany
  • Thales Alenia Space Italia S.p.A., Italy   
  • Arescosmo S.p.A., Italy       
  • Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands   
  • Heliospectra AB, Sweden
  • Limerick Institute of Technology, Ireland
  • Telespazio S.p.A., Italy
  • University of Florida, United States of America

Design Overview

EDEN ISS MTF consists of two shipping containers that are subdivided into three distinct sections.

  • Future Exploration Greenhouse (FEG)
  • Service section
  • Cold porch/airlock

The facility will be operated by a crew-member, with a large emphasis on remote monitoring and operations.


The EDEN ISS double-container comprises 3 parts:  the future exploration greenhouse, the service section and the airlock

Top: Interior of the Service Area, bottom: View into the EDEN ISS greenhouse, Visualizations: LIQUIFER Systems Group, 2017


The Future Exploration Greenhouse (FEG) is the main plant growth area of the Mobile Test Facility and consists of a highly adaptable multi-shelf growth system and is capable of maintaining a number of different environmental settings.

The service section houses the main support subsystems, including; thermal, power, air management and nutrient/water subsystems and provides working space for pre- ­and post-harvest procedures. The full rack ISPR plant growth demonstrator is integrated within the service section.

 The cold porch/airlock is a small buffer room to limit the entry of cold air into the FEG when the main access door of the facility is in use. This section is also used for storage purposes.


Six objectives are defined for the validation of key technologies for space greenhouses under mission relevant conditions, with representative mass flows:

1  Manufacture of a space analogue mobile test facility

2  Integration and test of an International Standard Payload Rack plant cultivation system and Future Exploration Greenhouse

3  Adaptation, integration, fine-tuning and demonstration of key plant cultivation technologies

4  Development and demonstration of operational techniques and processes for higher plant cultivation to provide safe, high-quality food

5  Study of microbial behaviour and countermeasures within plant cultivation chambers

6  Actively advance knowledge related to human spaceflight and transform research results into terrestrial applications


Project Status

The critical design review of the EDEN ISS MTF was completed in March 2016 and was followed by hardware development and testing phases. Between late 2016 and early 2017, subsystems were installed and tested in the MTF. The greenhouse has been powered-up to support Heliospectra plant-growth LED lamps to be tested in different wavelengths; blue, red, red+blue (pink), and white; and the thermal rack and atmosphere management rack have been integrated and used to control the greenhouse climate.

Also, late last year, was the test campaign at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands to investigate the decontamination system intended for use in the container. Afterwards, an initial microbiological analysis of the decontamination system performance was provided by partners Airbus Defense and Space in Ottobrunn, Germany based on a small-scale experiment using the equipment. A large-scale experiment was completed in November 2016 at the Wageningen University and Research. In all, nearly 300 test plants and 300 samples were inoculated with microorganisms for these tests.

Currently, the long-term integrated testing campaign is underway at DLR in Bremen.

In October, the facility will be transported to Antarctica by ship via Cape Town, South Africa. The MTF will be placed on top of an external platform located approximately 400 m south from Neumayer Station III. The Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine Research, has already built the platform in Antarctica in preparation for the arrival of the EDEN ISS MTF. A detailed scientific campaign will be conducted throughout the expedition and numerous samples will be returned to European laboratories for further research.

EDEN ISS is a 4-year project extending from March 2015 to December 2018.



EDEN ISS – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the EDEN ISS project trying to achieve?

The goal of the project, is to bring technologies closer to flight-readiness for building sustainable bases on the Moon and on Mars. A greenhouse is foreseen, for use by astronauts, to cultivate their own fresh fruits and vegetables beyond terrestrial grounds. 

The cultivation system being built in EDEN ISS, is unlike systems used today in greenhouse horticulture. The main reason is based on the ‘closed’ aspect of the system, meaning that all resources needed to grow the plants are coming from within the facility itself, including air, nutrients, water and energy. 


Why is the EDEN ISS Mobile Test Facility going to Antarctica? How will it serve the Neumayer III Station?

Antarctica is an extreme harsh environment and is hostile to human beings. It is cold, far from civilization and isolated. The EDEN ISS project can be compared to the ISS and other space missions because the equipment and scientific payloads are similar in which to face harsh environments and limited resources. 

When the two container EDEN ISS system can function properly in the extreme Antarctic climate, it will provide researchers with knowledge supporting sustainable farming practices that are not necessarily dependent on ‘arable land,’ as is largely the case today. When the EDEN ISS greenhouse supports the growth of safe and quality food in Antarctica, it will be a pointer towards what is also possible in the future.  Not only, does the human race come closer to living on a planetary body other than Earth, but also, the increasing population of the world can be fed right here on Earth.  

The EDEN ISS greenhouse will serve crew members of the Neumayer III Station, providing them with fresh vegetables and greens. Because missions of this type normally do not support the provision of fresh food, the EDEN ISS team expects that this improvement in diet and food variety will also positively support their psychological well-being. 


What kinds of plants will be cultivated in EDEN ISS?

EDEN ISS focuses on the cultivation of fresh vegetables with high water content, which cannot be stored for a long period without compromising the quality. More than 15 different crop species are selected for the experiment campaign in Antarctica. There are three tall growing plants (tomato, pepper and cucumber), three different types of lettuce (two green, one red leaf), radish, spinach, a variety of herbs (basil, chives, parsley, mint, coriander) and strawberry. Seeds from a number of add-on crops, crops that are not part of the current production plan, will be taken to Antarctica as well. Among those are cabbage, cauliflower and red beet.


What do plants need to grow well in a semi-closed loop greenhouse?

Optimal light and temperature are essential for plant growth in a semi-closed loop greenhouse, as is the control of nutrients and humidity.

Light is the primary requirement of plants and is essential for the photosynthesis process, in which plants use light energy and CO2 to make sugar, the building material for plant growth and fruit production. Light must be uniformly distributed over the plants, so that all plants grow equally.

A temperature between 20-25°C is ideal for supporting plant physiological processes like photosynthesis, enzymatic processes, water transport and transpiration. Heat in a semi-closed loop system is generated mostly by the light source.

In a semi-closed greenhouse, it is important to monitor and control humidity. Plants transpire large amounts of water, as they absorb light and heat from the atmosphere.  When possible, reclaimed water should be recycled to conserve the (often) limited amount of water within the system.

A nutrient solution is of utmost importance. Its distribution must be finely balanced to minimize recycling of excessive applications.


How will the plants be cared for?

Plants are grown in trays, fixed in a covering on the surface of the trays. The root systems of the plants are exposed under the tray. 

An aeroponic system is used to supply plants with essential nutrients, using a spray system of application directly at the roots. Excessive nutrient solution is drained for re-use.

Grow trays are stored as shelves in the semi-closed greenhouse, under a light source of LEDs. The LEDs provide a mixture of light colors essential for plant growth. Temperature is controlled and based on a day/night regime, with a slightly higher day temperature.

In Antarctica, the plants will be cared for by a crew member. For extraterrestrial applications however, a big component of operations, is the control of scientific payloads in space, directly from Earth. When processes are well-designed, when all tasks are defined and assigned to a responsible party, when procedures are in place, and the right tools are available, many missions can be carried out from a great distance. Plant samples generated by the EDEN ISS project in Antarctica will be shipped to partner institutions in the European Union for research and analysis purposes.


Is the food that is grown in semi-closed loop systems safe to eat? 

Partners within the EDEN-ISS consortium, CNR and Limerick Institute of Technology, work to ensure that the food produced in the EDEN ISS project is of high organoleptic and nutritional quality and is safe to consume. 

The microbial load (including E. Coli and Salmonella) of different plants and surfaces within the greenhouse will be monitored. Using an electronic Nose (E-Nose), based on Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor(MOS) Sensor-Technology, measurements will be made accessing the health of the system. If contamination is discovered, a decontamination agent will be applied to the greenhouse as a countermeasure, by a process of micro-fogging (droplet size approx. 2-5 µm).   


What are the applications for EDEN ISS, here on Earth?

The technologies that EDEN ISS develops for space missions, can also be used on Earth. Knowledge generated by the project will help Earth-based greenhouse systems to optimize plant-environment interactions, the level and cost of production and quality of food that is being produced. Solutions developed within the project could also support a reduction in pesticide use in closed environment agriculture. Positive changes to food growth on Earth can have a global impact and help in fighting against malnutrition and environmentally damaging farming practices. 


How will EDEN ISS be integrated for use on the International Space Station (ISS)?

The Future Exploration Greenhouse (FEG) is the main plant growth area of the EDEN ISS project and has a cultivation area of around 12.5 m2.

To prove that the EDEN ISS system can be implemented in space, we target experimentation on the ISS with a single International Standard Payload Rack (ISPR) subsystem.

The ISPR, located separately from the main plant growth area, in the service section of the Mobile Test Facility, is intended as a demonstrator of safe food complement production in a confined environment operating in microgravity conditions. This experiment is envisioned either as a complete higher plants cultivation system or as a demonstrator of key subsystems, depending on launch opportunities. A large difference in growing food on earth, as compared to inside a space-bound closed environment greenhouse, is the amount of space that is available to cultivate crops. The available space in the ISPR is 0.5-2.0m2, whereas equivalent research on earth would use areas of 100-200 m2.