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How bugs could help us grow food on Mars

Published Dec 2nd, 2023 1:53PM EST
forests on mars
Image: stockcrafter / Adobe

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NASA’s hopes to put humans on Mars and one day settle the Red Planet as humanity’s second home could very well rely on some of the smallest creatures on our planet. According to new research, insects could play a vital part in ensuring that we can grow food on Mars.

While the first thought here might have something to do with pollination, we aren’t actually talking about bees or any of the insects that help with that side of things. Instead, researchers believe that insects like the black soldier fly could be key to making food growable on Mars.

One of the biggest hindrances that we need to overcome to settle a human colony on Mars will require us to grow our own food there. That would not only save millions on food costs but also ensure that astronauts staying on the planet could hold out should anything happen to shipments traveling from Earth.

Mars in colorImage source: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/G. Michael,

But, if we’re going to grow food on Mars, we have to overcome several issues. First and foremost, we have to figure out how to make Mars’s lifeless soil more pliable for plants. Mars’s lack of an atmosphere means that the soil on Mars isn’t nearly as rich in the essentials that Earth is.

So how do we fix that? Well, a group of researchers believe that by using the frass from black soldier flies as fertilizer, we could add more nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and bacteria — another important part of growing plants on the Moon and other planetary bodies — to the soil. This could help the food planted on Mars grow more reliably (via The New York Times).

The researchers presented their findings at the Entomological Society of America conference earlier this month. They used soil similar to what we believe Mars’s soil is like to test the theory, and it showed some really solid results. As such, the future of space travel and providing for astronauts on distant planets could rely on the bugs that we take with us to those planets.

but that’s also another area that brings in some of its own issues, we we’ll need to ensure any insects taken to other planets aren’t going to pose a threat to the ecosystem on those planets. If we can do that, then insects like black soldier flies could help us make growing food on Mars possible and more reliable.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.