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Award for wardrobe-sized modular grow system producing 700 kg of fresh food annually

Growing 700 kg of fresh food annually in a device the size of a wardrobe. That's possible with the CANGrow™ food production system, which was awarded the grand prize in the Deep Space Food Challenge last week. The system is developed by Vancouver-based startups Maia Farms and ecoation. A grande role in the system is for the mycelium protein ingredient CanPro™.

One Small Unit, big possibilities for Food Technology
CANGrow, the food production system that propelled Ecoation and Maia Farms to the top of the competition, is a modern engineering unit designed to feed astronauts on future missions, whether to the Moon or Mars. "However, its implications extend far beyond space travel", the teams say. "CANGrow can also improve food supply in remote, underserved, and disaster-stricken areas on Earth, thanks to its quick setup and sophisticated autonomous climate control systems."

With the capability to produce over 700 kilograms of food annually from a unit no larger than a wardrobe, CANGrow efficiently grows an array of crops, including dwarf tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and the novel Maia Farms CanPro mycoprotein ingredient derived from mushrooms. This modular system operates on standard 120-volt power and can be connected to a regular three-quarter-inch garden hose, showcasing its ease of use and adaptability for both extraterrestrial and terrestrial applications.

"At Ecoation, we set out to make the world a better place by helping farmers produce healthy and nutritious food without heavy reliance on pesticides. During the course of this project, we had the opportunity to adapt the technologies that we have developed for terrestrial applications to meet the constraints of a space mission. I am extremely proud of the recognition and winning the competition, and I look forward to feeding humans on planet Earth and beyond", said Saber Miresmaili, CEO of Ecoation.

An All-In-One System Built to Grow a Fully Sustainable Diet
The CANGrow system doesn't just grow plants, it is designed specifically to sustainably provide a diet that can meet the full nutritional needs of four individuals. At the heart of CANGrow are five specially designed grow chambers. Four are dedicated to plant growth, featuring everything from adjustable LED lights for perfect photosynthesis to a UV-treated hydroponic system for efficient watering. Maia Farms' protein-rich mycelium grows in the fifth chamber, thanks to a sophisticated bioreactor system.

Maia Farms is developing a biomass fermentation platform for mycoprotein with significantly higher yields than other strains. They are using an edible mushroom variety and agricultural byproducts as feedstocks. The mycoprotein ingredient, with 66% protein content, is being tested by Canadian food manufacturers. This includes alt-meat maker Big Mountain Foods, for use in various food products.

"It doesn't stop there. Innovative solutions like Lomi's accelerated composting chamber drastically reduce waste, ensuring that CANGrow is not just about growing food but doing it sustainably", the teams add.

"What started out as a starry-eyed childhood dream to grow food on the Moon has become reality today. More ambitious human space exploration will require the use of food production systems in space, and this project addresses a key need to fuel our journey beyond our planetary boundary. Four years ago, CANGrow was little more than a napkin sketch. Through the DSFC, we built an elegant food production system and spun out two brand new companies. Maia Farms' vision is to fundamentally transform the protein landscape, and this project represents our company's boundless potential. In order to create a self-sustaining system that meets astronauts dietary and nutritional needs, we needed to crack the code on a protein that offered the taste, texture, and performance of an animal-derived protein. CanPro is our answer: not only is it easily digestible, it has a neutral taste and chews like meat. It's been an incredible honor to lead the Ecoation and Maia team over the finish line and ultimately win a very challenging competition. Thank you to the Canadian Space Agency for supporting our work for the past three years", adds Gavin Schneider, CEO and Co-founder of Maia Farms.

The journey to this achievement was marked by three rigorous rounds of judging and intense development for the two companies on their respective technologies. Prior to the winning of the prestigious grand prize, an additional $130,000 in additional grants was provided for the development cost. Specifically, Maia Farms focused on the development of a completely novel mycelium ingredient and bioreactor technology that the company has already commercialized. Ecoation's deep engineering expertise focuses on autonomous climate control and closed-loop machine vision-based crop management technology. This commitment has not only led to winning the prestigious grand prize but further fueled the development of sustainable food solutions.

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