Vertical gardens in greenhouses to produce sustainable food in Mars

Authors: Ana Lima Benta, Bianca Ramos

Translators: Ana Lima Benta, Bianca Ramos

Whenever facing the possibility of humans living on Mars, there is always a common problem to worry about: the production of food. Traditional agriculture is nearly impossible on the red planet’s surface. Although Mars has a considerable amount of gas [1], such as “carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen, all in biologically readily accessible forms such as carbon dioxide gas, nitrogen gas, and water ice and permafrost” (Zubrin, 2014), the terrestrial and Martian atmosphere have significant differences in its capacity to maintain different life forms as we know. Also, water it’s present, but hard to obtain in its liquid form. Therefore, to produce food on Mars with more efficiency and sustainability, it is necessary to use Earth’s greatest food technologies, adapted to the Martian environment and using the abundance of characteristical substances from the red planet in its favor; for instance, the huge amount of carbon dioxide gas for vegetable development.

To solve the problem of producing food while living on Mars, we need to use the best of both worlds: Earth and the neighboring red planet. Our initial solution is to create a greenhouse with vertical gardens for sustainable planting. Structural technologies that could be used to specialize their effectiveness are health monitoring (performed using cameras for visual inspection and image processing algorithms for automated condition assessment), direct use of leaf protection chemicals, and integration of growth medium additives to prevent the growth of parasites and fungi [2]. Mars is, at first impression, an unfavorable environment for life. About 95% of the Martian atmosphere is carbon dioxide, which would make it impossible for humans to breathe directly into the planet’s atmosphere. Mars is also much cooler than Earth. This is mainly because the red planet is farther from the Sun than it is from Earth. NASA’s Viking mission landed on Mars in 1976 and recorded an average temperature of -81°F, which is cooler than Earth’s North or South Pole. If exposed to the temperature of Mars, plants, humans and other organisms will freeze. Using ice for radiation protection. The greenhouse design of this module involves the selection and planting of crops, the internal and external layout of the module and its systems. Ecology, Sustaining Human Life on Mars provides reliable, complete food for astronauts. Vertical planting reuses space sustainably, can be applied in any space, helps with sound insulation, improves air quality, requires almost no care and benefits from the humidity of the air.

To grow vegetables cleanly and efficiently, vertical plantings often use techniques such as hydroponics in suspended beds. This alternative began to expand around the world and emerged as an alternative to urban areas because space in urban areas is small or the soil is not suitable for growing certain crops. Technology can greatly alleviate the unforeseen problems faced by traditional farmers. It remains to be seen whether the foods found by these techniques are as healthy and nutritious as those grown naturally, and one of the challenges faced in production is delimiting the territory if dismountable parts were used in the structure. Thus, it would be possible to transport the buildings.

Figure 1

Automation in hydroponic systems

Figure 1 shows the diagram of the hydroponic system. The use of a closed-loop system implies recirculation through water and reusing human and plant waste as a source of nutrition for breeding crops. Passive filtration systems such as fine screens and sand, sterilization through the use of UV based technology [3] and reverse osmosis ensure a safe and efficient reuse of the nutrient solution. Urea, processed from human urine, is used as a nutritional supplement for older plants [4]. The biomass produced by the planting system is initially stored in isolated compost bins (ICB) located outside the habitat structure, and can later be used as a source of chemically extracted nutrients. Human intervention runs through the entire life cycle of the plant, from sowing to pollination and harvesting, and includes manual tasks that robots cannot complete or provide psychological benefits to the crew. In general, this module requires less than one hour of work per day for each of the four team members to maintain crops.

Using a technique that has been helpful on earth to solve one of the problems of living on another planet is an interesting topic to discuss. Of course it is possible to think that a good part of this is only in the future, but it might be a closer reality than it is considered to be. Producing food in Mars or creating green areas in small apartments in big cities, vertical gardens are welcome anywhere and they can be part of a step to the new present.


  1. Zubrin, R. (2014, July 10). Why Mars?. Retrieved July 26, 2021, from
  2. Gröll, K. & Graeff, S. & Claupein, W.. (2007). Use of vegetation indices to detect plant diseases. Agrarinformatik im Spannungsfeld zwischen Regionalisierung und globalen Wertschöpfungsketten. P-101, 91-94. ISBN: 978-3-88579-195-9
  3. Human Exploration and Operations at NASA. Retrieved August 5, 2021, from
  4. Babakhanova, S. et. al. (2019). Mars Garden: an Engineered Greenhouse for a Sustainable Residence on Mars. AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2019 Forum.