McGill team advances in Deep Space Food Challenge

Published: 3 May 2023

A team led by two recent McGill bioengineering graduates, Alexander Becker and Cynthia Hitti, has made it through to the final phase of the Deep Space Food Challenge (DSFC) with their system for rearing crickets as a food source for long-haul space voyages.

The team will now face the challenge of developing a full-scale production version of their Cricket Rearing, Collection, and Transformation System (CRCTS) by the spring of 2024 as they compete against three other Canadian finalists for a grand prize of $380,000 in grant funding.

CRCTS was one of two McGill teams to make it to the semi-finals of the competition, which is a joint initiative of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and Impact Canada. Starting with just a few hundred eggs, the technology is anticipated to support the growth of tens of thousands of crickets a month. The end-product is a finely-ground powder that can be combined with water to form a versatile, protein-packed ingredient.

CRCTS and InSpira PBR both evolved under the umbrella of the McGill Advanced bio-Regenerative Toolkit for Long Excursion Trips (MARTLET), an initiative supervised by Mark Lefsrud, Associate Professor in McGill’s Department of Bioresource Engineering. The MARTLET project has engaged over 100 students and submitted a total of six design proposals to the DFSC.

(Originally published in the McGill Reporter)

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