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A mix of fresh raw vegetarian food.

The amount of Food for human beings that can be brought from Earth to Mars is limited, and the logistics of a continued food transport for the long term is expensive. Especially an autonomous colony needs it's own food production. Reasons for this are cost reduction and the achievement of independence from Earth. Last but not least, the own food can be of higher quality and fresh, including a natural mix of vitamins and minerals.

Food requirements

An average human requires about 2,7 kg of food per day, or 985 kg per year. A good target might be one tonne of food per year per colonist, to account for losses. Plants are composed of edible parts and non edible parts. The non edible portion is counted as biomass, and can be used for industrial production or recycled into the food production system. On average, of the solid parts of plants (not water) about 50% of a plant is edible and the rest is biomass. The following table presents a suggested diet based on the Canadian Food Guide.

Food, canadian food guide Weight of

food (gram)

kiloCalorie/kg calories

per day

Fruit 500 500 250
Vegetables 750 300 225
Protein (meat and beans) 200 4000 800
Dairy 750 420 315
Grains 240 2100 504
Oils 40 5000 200
Total 2480 12320 2294

Food that can be brought from Earth

  • Several varieties of dehydrated food.
  • Food that contains large amounts of fat and carbohydrates, such as nuts and dried meats.
  • Concentrated fruit juice.
  • Lightweight, high energy foods with a long shelf-life.

Local Production Methods

  • Vegetable can be grown in greenhouses or on green walls in order to close the carbon cycle.
  • Proteins, fat and carbohydrates can be produced by a biotechnological factory
  • Animals, such as chicken or fish, may be raised in sections of greenhouses.
  • It takes 2000 to 3000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of meat, it only takes 100 litres of water to grow 1 kg of grain. Water will be a very valuable commodity on Mars, so the first generation of settlers may well be vegetarian by necessity. This may be mitigated by water recycling.
  • Growing insects and their larvae (e.g. flour worms or fly maggots) can provide valuable proteins and might consume just waste biomass‎. Pigs might be a more palatable alternative.
  • Algae can produce large amount of food and oil. However, is is impossible to survive only on algae in the long term(reference needed).
  • Some food (possibly genetically modified) may be grown in the Martian atmosphere. Results from the Phoenix lander indicate that some vegetables may be grown in caves safe from radiation.

Nutrition and Energy Calculations

Calorie calculation
Unit 1 person 1000 persons
Human calorie intake kilocalorie/day 2300 2300000
Days per year 365 365
Energy per year kiloca 839500 839,500,000
Yearly energy production kilocal/m2 4700 4700
Area to feed humans m2 179 178,617

Food and crop energy and yields

The following table has been compiled from various sources. The values are but remain bellow record yields and are usually for open field intensive agriculture unless otherwise noted.

On Mars, these crops could be grown year round, with supplemental artificial lighting, no weather, extra CO2 concentration and optimum irrigation and fertilization. Some Yields might then probably be significantly higher.

Food and crop yields
Food type Tonnes








Apples, pears Australia 65 6.5 571 3714
Ontario 25 2.5 580 1450
Oranges, citrus Florida 130 13 470 6110
Israel 50 5 470 2350
Banana Puerto Rico 70 7 1000 7000
Strawberries England 30 3 330 990
California 90 9.0 330 2970 Hydroponic
Australia 150 15.0 330 4950
Dwarf fruit trees California 72 7.2
Potato UK 50 5.0 850 4250
Sweden 26 [1] 2.6
Sweet potato california 27 2.7 860 2346
Tomatoes 150 15.0 180 2700
Water melon 36 3.6 300 1071
Cabbage 90 9.0 250 2250
Beans 20 2.0 3470 6940 Hydroponic
watercress 25 2.5 110 275
canola 3 0.3 8840 2652
Rice China 17 1.7 1300 2210
Wheat 10 1.0 3400 3400
Canada[2] 5.9
6[3] 0.6
Oats 4.3 0.4 3890 1673
Barley 7 0.7 3540 2478
soya 3 0.3 4460 1338
Corn 12 1.2 960 1152
Fodder Corn Canada[2] 50 5
Bamboo[4] 4 For wood type products

Meat production

Energy in meat and meat products and dairy products.

Food type kg






Meat 5000
fat 9000
protein 4000
Salmon 2080
Tilapia 1290
chicken 2390
milk 420
Eggs 1550

Feed conversion ratio is a measure of efficiency. It is the ratio between the mass of feed and the mass of product output. For dairy cows, for example, the output is milk, whereas in animals raised for meat (such as beef cows, pigs, chickens, and fish) the output is the flesh, that is, the body mass gained by the animal, represented either in the final mass of the animal or the mass of the dressed output (from Wikipedia).

Feed conversion ratios
Livestock FCR
Beef 4.5–7.5 calculated on live weight gain
Pigs 3.8-4.5 About 1 for piglets, grows higher and higher with time
Sheep 4-6, 40 4-6 on grain, 40 on straw
Poultry 1.6-2 A hen can lay up to 330 eggs per year. Maturation is about 40 days
Criquets 0,9-1.0
Fish 1-1.5 Higher for fish to fish conversion
Rabbits 2.5-3

Artificial food

  • What is known about needed vitamins and minerals?
  • Is it possible to make artificial food with an artificial mixture of vitamins and minerals, allowing humans to keep well and fit?
  • Beyond meat, a vegetable meat substitute.
  • In-vitro meat is possible, but requires large amounts of energy for its production. Modified vegetables might produce a better substitute.

See also