Dinner on Mars

Lenore Newman | Dinner on Mars

Reviewed by: Annette Reinhart

The title and concept of this book is a planetary thought experiment about a serious earthly matter. Together, during the isolation period of COVID, Newman and Fraser came up with the idea to imagine how food could be produced on Mars. These two prominent agriculture and food security experts theorized that if we could sustain ourselves on Mars without the waste and pollution that our current systems of giant agribusiness produce, then we would also know how to do it on earth.

The book looks at many of the well-known problems associated with our current systems of food supply, including the excessive need for grasslands for methane producing cows, overly heavy carbohydrate diets – based on corn, rice and wheat whose production dominates croplands globally, inefficient chemical fertilizers that end up washing into and polluting waterways, and the growing difficulties in attracting farmers and farm workers. 

“What’s for Dinner on Mars” also describes many novel technologies and farming methods currently in use here on earth. To name a few: self-fertilizing plants, vertical agriculture, indoor farming, photosynthesis efficiency, targeting ideal LED lighting requirements for plants, optimal soil microbiomes, fermentation and cellular agriculture, robotic farm workers, and i-farms where self-driving smart tractors have sensors that identify and supply specific plant needs.

Our relationship with meat and dairy consumption is changing and many companies listed in this book are already producing plant-based foods from cheese to salmon. Singapore was the first country in the world to approve lab grown chicken from the California based company Eat Just, in 2020.

Ideally, the authors say, whether we think about a life on Mars or not, we should be developing closed waste-free systems of food production, with sustainable intensification designed to feed our global population without the current negative consequences that come with conventional agribusiness.

It will be very interesting to listen to Lenore at this year’s Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival (July 19-21), and talk with her about the innovative science of this industry and its future in our world… and maybe others.