If you thought that only people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos were racing to get to Mars, this one will surprise you. Ketchup and dressing maker Heinz partnered with the Florida Institute of Technology to grow tomatoes in soil that mimicked that of Mars, and then made ketchup with it. Is called Marz Edition.
Honestly, this is not a joke. The company even ran an ad.
Feeding a distant planet will definitely be a difficult task. While astronauts carry packages of dehydrated food with them if we want create colonies on different planets in our solar system we will need more than food packages, we will have to make them rely on themselves.
Astrobiologist Andrew Palmer of Florida Tech is one such scientist looking for ways to solve this problem. At the University The Center for Modern Production and Innovative Design, Palmer and his team have reproduced Mars-like conditions in a greenhouse. They extract soil from the Mojave Desert, which mimics that of Mars and has also created conditions of light, temperature and water similar to the red planet. No wonder why their experimental site is called the Red House.
They teamed up with Heinz for their tomato experience and discovered four varieties of plants that could potentially grow in these harsh environments. After a small study of 30 plants, the team found that only two varieties actually did so, and then expanded their experiment to 450 plants grown in separate buckets. The project took more than 2,000 hours and they finally managed to produce a harvest that could be harvested.
It is clear that the yield was quite good and met the standards that Heinz uses to produce its branded ketchup. The company did just that and packaged it in a special edition bottle. Before you ask, ketchup is not for sale, it is only available to a limited number of people in Heinz.
An interesting finding from Palmer’s experiment with 450 plants is that the yield is much lower than what the team expected. Palmer believes the team still needs to improve the conditions needed to grow plants in large controlled environments. He also added that growing other fruit and vegetable plants in the trough will allow microbes to thrive in the system and reducing the spread of the disease. The experiment also gave an idea of how it would be possible to grow plants in the harshest environments on Earth.
In addition, the connection with Heinz gave Palmer’s research a huge boost in the public eye. Millions will read about Heinz’s Marz ketchup, thanks to the research team at Florida Tech. I suspect that other researchers could also join larger brands to refine their research.