Alterratech (Australia) and Re Rustica Spatium (India) earn Special Mentions

Basel, Switzerland, 30 March 2020 – Thought For Food (TFF) and Beta.Space announce that GrowCab has been selected as the winning team in the TFF x Beta.Space Space Colonization Challenge, a strategic innovation prize competition that was part of the 2019/2020 global TFF Challenge.

GrowCab, based in the UK and with team members hailing from India, Mexico and Venezuela, has built an open-source, low-cost benchtop growth cabinet that facilitates “speed breeding” of crop varieties. Speed breeding, a technique developed by one of the team members which was published in the journal Nature Plants, accelerates plant growth in order to improve testing and production of many pivotal research outcomes in a number of plant species. Plant generation time is one of the biggest barriers to advances in crop and plant science, and GrowCab solves this by equipping plant breeders with the technical knowledge as well as required equipment to improve the efficiency and impact of their breeding efforts. The GrowCab chamber, which includes lighting, temperature and humidity controls, can be flat-packed and built on-spot (prototype for GrowCab was first published here). This is optimal for interplanetary breeding projects where the lack of physical space is one of the key challenges.

Australian team, Alterratech, dubbed the “Tesla of Agriculture,” upgrades existing on-farm machinery with computer vision and a ‘fleet learning’ approach that improves the productivity and sustainability of farming operations. The team of three, whose members have studied climatology, commerce, and law, and who have worked in agtech startups in both Australia and the USA, are on a mission to build the world’s largest plant vision library with the sensors and robotic control systems to match. By adding levels of computer vision to existing machinery, partnering with autonomous farming machinery startups, and collecting vast amounts of plant data, they are accelerating the automation of the food supply on- and off-world, bringing the dream of an autonomous, safe, and efficient industry to life.

The Indian Team Re Rustica Spatium has developed a novel bio-nursery system capable of raising plants in Martian soil by producing water from the Martian atmosphere and stabilising the temperature using solar panels. Their sealed micro-controlled plant chambers integrate current state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies with agricultural techniques to enable farming in extreme conditions.

The TFF x Beta.Space Space Colonisation Prize was launched as one of three topical innovation challenges in the 2019/2020 global TFF Challenge. This specific topical prize challenge aimed to incentivise changemakers from all around the world to think beyond the food systems on Earth and help develop the required innovations for sustainable living on other habitable worlds. While companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are focused on launching the rockets that could get us to other worlds, Beta.Space strategizes about what life will be like once we are up there.

As the winning team, GrowCab will have the chance to participate in the 2020 TFF Academy and TFF Summit events, taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They will also be invited to take part in one of Beta.Space’s programs (currently being rescheduled due to the COVID-19 situation).

As Special Mentions, both Alterratech and Re Rustica Spatium will receive 2 hours of virtual mentorship from Thought For Food, as well as a free ticket to the TFF Summit in Malaysia.

John Cumbers, the Founder of Beta.Space (and the synthetic biology organization SynBioBeta), shares his excitement about the teams. “Beta.Space brings a new, broader vision to humanity’s journey into space and we hope to spawn the concepts that could allow humanity to establish bases on Mars or Moon. Alterra, GrowCab and Re Rustica Spatium have looked at our current agricultural systems on Earth and then applied and adapted their concepts to the space environment and to the challenges of establishing new technologies that will allow humans to thrive there. We all know that in a thousand years we’re going to have people living on the moon or Mars. In a hundred years, I put the probability at 75%. We need young innovators like these to help us make sustainable settlement of space a reality.”

Christine Gould, Founder and CEO of Thought For Food states, “As humans, we are currently facing multiple, interconnected crises – climate change, food and nutrition insecurity, water wars, and pandemics – to name just a few. These global challenges bring with them exciting opportunities for breakthrough innovation. Visionaries like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have taken extraordinary steps towards getting our human species to other worlds. How can we apply this type of audacious, moonshot thinking to solve our challenges right here at home? The three teams awarded for this prize have shown unbelievable amounts of vision – not only when it comes to colonizing space, but also for making Spaceship Earth a better, more food secure home for us all.”

About Beta.Space:
Beta.Space is a space settlement innovation network and community of visionaries, technologists, and investors accelerating the industries needed to sustain human life here and off-planet which was founded by John Cumbers, who also runs the synthetic biology innovation network SynBioBeta and is a former bioengineer at NASA. Beta.Space aims to figure out how humans will live once they rocket to other worlds.

About Thought For Food:
Thought For Food is the world’s entrepreneurial innovation engine for food and agriculture. We work with more than 20,000 next-generation leaders from over 175 countries, empowering them to generate and scale breakthrough business ventures that build sustainable, inclusive, and resilient food systems. Our comprehensive suite of next-gen innovation programs includes the TFF Challenge, an annual collaborative innovation prize competition; the TFF Digital Labs, a digital startup accelerator and collaboration platform; the TFF Academy, an in-person incubation program for world-class startups; and the TFF Summit, a flagship global event focused on bringing the voices of the next generation together with policy and business leaders to co-create solutions. TFF’s work is powered by a global operating structure that includes the TFF Core Team, 14 Regional Coordinators and 400 Ambassadors in more than 200 cities, as well as diverse partners such as Syngenta, KWS, Google and Rockefeller Foundation. Thought For Food is a 501c3 non-profit entity. Find out more about Thought For Food at