People who love food look for that delicious sauce that ties the whole meal together. For centuries, tomato ketchup has been undeniably one of the most basic and popular condiments in the world. Some foodies cannot even imagine eating fried food without pairing it with tomato ketchup, and the adventurous ones even add it on steak.
The main ingredient for many food and sauces are raw fruit and vegetables, but in the past years, scientists have seen a struggle with the Earth's soil to keep up with the people's demand for produce. Fruits and vegetables are growing slower than the increasing demands and the growing population of people. Scientists and researchers have been studying for years to find out how to make the soil produce more just to keep up.
While this is going on, another group of bright minds looked at the issue in a different way. If the degradation in the Earth's soil can no longer be countered, then people need to find a way to grow produce that can deal with the degradation, but in doing so the seed must compensate for its incapacity.
A team of scientists from the Aldrin Space Institute at the Florida Institute of Technology and a team of tomato masters set on a two-year top-secret scientific endeavor called 'Project Red' with the mission to help make sure that future generations will still be able to get a taste of tomato ketchup. As a result, the team discovered an out-of-this-world solution to the problem on Earth.
Heinz, makers of one of the world's most favorite ketchup, together with its tomato masters and a team of scientists from Florida Tech's Aldrin Space Institute decided to grow Heinz's top-quality tomatoes in Martian soil conditions.
The planet Mars, though it is known for being a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere, was confirmed in a study to have liquid water flowing there, proving that life could be supported in the rough planet. This brings hope that even with Earth's soil degradation, it is still possible to produce quality crops.
The team at the Aldrin Space Institute, led by Dr. Andrew Palmer, began by submitting the first of three papers for scientific publication that charts the mission, which started testing the seeds in the unearthly conditions of Martian regolith. Once the Martian regolith was perfected, the team had to create a unique biodome to mimic the conditions on the Red Planet. The experiment became one of the largest growing projects related to Mars ever conducted.
Thankfully, the project not only succeeded in growing tomatoes but tomatoes that have the all-important qualities that make Heinz Tomato Ketchup. The team's success resulted in the first-ever Heinz Tomato Ketchup Marz Edition.
''There are many important factors our tomato masters consider when it comes to the right properties when growing Heinz tomatoes in new and less than ideal soil environments – from thickness to color and sweetness, these all ensure we can create the unmistakable Heinz Tomato Ketchup we all know and love," said Cristina Kenz, Chief Growth Officer for Kraft Heinz International Zone.
Kenz along with the Project Red team shared their excitement in showcasing their creation with the world. "From analyzing the soil from Martian conditions two years ago to harvesting now, it has been a journey that has proved that wherever we end up, Heinz Tomato Ketchup will still be enjoyed for generations to come," she continued.
Discovering ways to grow produce in Martian simulated conditions have only been short-term plant growth studies, until now. "What this project has done is look at long-term harvesting of food. Achieving a crop that is of a quality to become Heinz Tomato Ketchup was the dream result and we achieved it," Dr. Palmer shared.
Dr. Palmer explained that there is much to learn by working with the biggest food companies worldwide. "Working with the tomato masters at Heinz has allowed us to see what the possibilities are for long-term food production beyond Earth."
The company did not stop there. Heinz Tomato Ketchup Marz Edition was unveiled in a limited-edition bottle and it embarked on a spaceflight beyond the Earth's atmosphere, reaching 37,000 meters into the sky and -70 degrees Celsius temperatures before returning to Earth.
NASA astronaut and mechanical engineering professor Mike Massimino, a veteran of two space flights, four spacewalks, and the first astronaut to ever tweet from space, is a self-confessed Heinz Tomato Ketchup superfan.
"In space we have a saying, 'it is not about the food, it is about the sauce'," shared Massimino. NASA astronauts could get whatever food they wanted up there, but the problem is sometimes the food comes in dehydrated or bland. "So a good dollop of sauce always made your meals delicious, which started my love for Heinz Tomato Ketchup."
More than making sure that future generations will still be able to get a taste of authentic tomato ketchup, this out-of-this-world endeavor has also paved the way to larger research for possibilities of long-term food production.
Learn more about the project by watching this video:
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