Research center to develop space food expertise


A new research centre, led by the University of Adelaide, will focus its international expertise on finding ways to provide the next generation of space explorers with nutritious food and the on-demand supply of materials and of drugs.

Announced today, Friday 4 November, the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Plants for Space (P4S) Center of Excellence will help establish a long-term human presence in space, while developing innovations on Earth.

The Australian government is providing $35 million in funding for the new centre, which will initially last seven years. Additional cash and in-kind support from the 38 P4S partners brings the total value to approximately $90 million.

“P4S’s mission is to reinvent plant design and bioresource production, through the lens of space, to enable above-Earth habitation and provide transformative solutions to improve sustainability on Earth,” said the Professor Matthew Gilliham, Principal of the University of Adelaide. of the new center of excellence.

“P4S research will create the flexible plant-based solutions needed to support human physical and psychological well-being during deep space travel and settlement.

“The work undertaken by Center experts will also bring about a step change in the efficiency, productivity and processing technologies of factories here on Earth.”

P4S is a major global collaborative transdisciplinary enterprise that brings together 15 academic institutions, five space agencies and enablers, five controlled environment agriculture (CEA) companies, six education providers, and seven government and technology partners who collectively leverage a global critical mass adapted to the objective not found elsewhere. Australia University’s founding partners are the University of Adelaide, University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia, Flinders University and La Trobe University.

“P4S’s mission is to reinvent plant design and bioresource production, through the lens of space, to enable above-Earth habitation and provide transformative solutions to improve sustainability on Earth.” Professor Matthew Gilliham, Director of the University of Adelaide, ARC Center of Excellence Plants for Space

“P4S represents an international authority and focal point for space research on plant-based foods, materials and engineering. It will create new technologies and capabilities in plant modification to translate research into applications in the space and on Earth,” said P4S Deputy Director and Head of the Products Program, Professor Sally Gras from the University of Melbourne.

“By training more than 400 researchers, P4S will produce the next generation of internationally connected and industry-focused experts, and accelerate the growth of the burgeoning domestic and international CEA and biomanufacturing industries,” added P4S Deputy Director and Process Program Manager, Professor Melissa. de Zwart of Flinders University.

“Long-term off-Earth habitation is on the horizon. However, major challenges remain, which will be addressed head-on by P4S. Mission success depends on the availability of nutritious food and medicine without having to need for resupply missions from Earth,” said P4S Plants program manager Professor Harvey Millar of the University of Western Australia.

P4S will also drive transformational benefits for industries on Earth and sustainability outcomes. P4S breakthroughs will offer new plant efficiency solutions for harsh terrestrial environments and work on how to intensively, yet sustainably, produce plant-based foods that can reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture.

“Space habitation amplifies the multi-faceted sustainability challenges we face in producing food and biomaterials on Earth,” said Dr. Kim Johnson, P4S People Program Manager, La Trobe University.

“The collective multidisciplinary expertise within P4S will lead innovation in space plant production systems and realize the Center’s multi-faceted heritage to fulfill humans’ ambition to explore beyond Earth.”

P4S will expand Australian leadership, collaboration and capacity in space-inspired plant and food research.

“National and global interest in extraterrestrial exploration provides P4S experts with the opportunity to build on South Australia’s space leadership and Australia’s reputation in space research,” said Professor Anton Middelberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Adelaide.

“Integrated, globally connected and transformative research programs will fill gaps, drive sector coordination, strengthen the workforce and innovate with industry-ready solutions.”

P4S will be an Australian contribution to NASA’s Artemis Accords, which have been signed by 21 countries, including Australia. The Artemis mission plans to put the first woman and person of color on the Moon by 2030 and develop the technologies needed for humans to venture to Mars and return to Earth in the 2040s. should be launched and return to Earth by the end of 2022.

The head of the Australian Space Agency, Mr Enrico Palermo, said: “As humanity seeks to return to the Moon, this time we are doing so with the aim of establishing an enduring presence that will allow us to explore further than ever.

“Many challenges are associated with ensuring that humans can live sustainably on the Moon. P4S is just one way Australia can help achieve this goal as part of its commitment to the Artemis Accords.

“We are excited about the possibilities this brings and the opportunities it creates for our growing space sector.”

Partners of the Australian Research Council Center for Excellence in Plants for Space are:

Academic institutions



University of Adelaide

University of California, Berkeley

flinders university

University of California Davis

University of Melbourne

The University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Western Australia

rice university

La Trobe University

University of Arizona

University of Cambridge

University of Nottingham

National Institute of Agriculture, Food and the Environment

Jülich Research Center

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

Space agencies Space Facilitators
Nasa Axiom space
Australian Space Agency


German Space Agency

Agriculture companies in a controlled environment (ACE)

Government agencies

Space laboratory technologies

SA Space Industry Center

vertical future

Defense Science and Technology Group

MineARC Systems

Department of Primary Industries and Regions


GAIA Australia project

Technology providers

BioPlatforms Australia

Twist Biosciences

Australian Genome Research Facility

Australian plant phenomics facility


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