Aleca Borsuk

Aleca Borsuk and her amaranth.

Amaranth: an ancient, low-maintenance grain that this University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa undergraduate says can be the next space food. 

According to a press release, with NASA trying to get to Mars in the 2030’s, a problem that has yet to be solved is what the astronauts on the mission will eat. What they eat would have to be healthy and require minimal effort and energy to produce. Aleca Borsuk, a mechanical engineering major, has started the ball rolling on a solution. 

“I picked a really hearty, heat tolerant, drought tolerant species of edible vegetable, and that is amaranth. It’s an ancient grain,” Borsuk said in the release. 

She said that by changing the plats lighting and where it is placed, one can speed up the growth of the plant’s edible parts. She added that this technology could also be applied to commercially grown produce.  

“They do the same thing that they do here on Earth, which is regenerate oxygen in the atmosphere. They also can provide nutrition to astronauts, and if you can imagine being away from Earth for many years, you know, tending something that’s green would be kind of a psychological boost as well,” Borsuk said. 

Borsuk is a 2013 UH Presidential Scholar who is mentored by Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences Associate Professor Kent Kobayashi.