Grace Crain about Space farming — I ask therefore I am S2#106

Zjef Van Acker
4 min readJul 9, 2021


Grace Crain and Zjef Van Acker — I ask therefore I am
Zjef & Grace pretending that Kombucha is fertiliser made from urine!

With “I ask therefore I am” we research the philosophies that flow through all aspects of our reality.

An important part of this quest is to have conversations with experts who have a deep understanding of certain subjects. We talk about the insights of these specialists, and investigate possible solutions for societal dilemmas and personal life questions.

We’re making this world a little bit better, one question at a time

What does space farming mean for earth?

It sounds counterintuitive but it is real: Space exploration teaches us a lot about life on earth!

This is yet again proven during this podcast-conversation with Grace Crain, MELiSSA Doctoral Student at ETH Zurich Group of Plant Nutrition.

Does MELiSSA ring a bell? It might! Because we already had a podcast-guest who was part of the MELiSSA initiative by the European Space Agency (MELiSSA = Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative). In 2020 we had a talk with Radu Giurgiu about high tech ecosystem farming. And it is Radu who got me into contact with Grace Crain saying:

“She does some fantastic research on growing plants with urine-derived fertiliser, moreover, she is a talented communicator”.

Remember Radu? ;-)

Radu Giurgiu and Zjef Van Acker — I ask therefore I am
The cool guys picture with Zjef & Radu — link to their podcast here

Radu told me I had to schedule a talk quickly because Grace was only temporarily doing research at Ghent university (Belgium), the university in our home city. I could not let this opportunity slip by to talk to this aspiring astro-biologist.

Grace immediately replied positively because she is passionate about science communication and outreach about regenerative and holistic approaches for food systems on future planetary bases.

Grace Crain space farming I ask therefore I am

At the moment Grace does a PhD at ETH Zurich (Switzerland). Before that she obtained a Master in Biology at El paso uni, Texas (USA). She knows a lot about plant ecology, natural resource management and restoration, and desert ecology/biogeochemistry. As a US citizen she is our first podcast guest from another continent! EXCITING!

Grace’s research within the MELiSSA project focuses on determining the suitability of using human excreta for hydroponic crop production for future long-term space missions. Or in other words: Research on using pee and poo to grow plants in space.

This podcast conversation starts with Grace’s research, but of course the dialogue expands with the latest developments in space exploration, earth ecosystems, food producing ecosystems, circular economy and even space-colony politics!

Basically, this became a podcast with 2 people/nerds that are passionate about space exploration as a challenge for humanity, and as a way to better the understanding of our planetary ecosystems.

ENJOY the delightful and in depth conversation with Grace Crain!

Grace Crain and Zjef Van Acker — I ask therefore I am
Zjef and Grace having a lot of fun. That’s what you get when you can talk about space farming


04min50 Introduction to Grace and space farming
13min35 Why is space exploration good for earth?
18min00 Why is going to Mars the greatest challenge of our time?
22min00 The Melissa Project
29min30 About the nuances of converting urine into plant fertilizer
38min00 How long will it take until we have an ecosystem in space?
44min00 The impact of loss of material in a space ecosystem
53min50 Fermentation, mushrooms and insects for space exploration
65min50 Can we breed animals in space farming? And what does that mean for earth farming?
74min00 Can we replicate earth ecosystems?
81min30 How would politics and economy look like on a Mars Colony

You can listen to the podcast via Spotify, Anchor, Breaker, Google, Apple, Overcast, Pocketcast en Radio Public.

Auteur: Zjef Van Acker
Editor: Amy Reygaert

More “I ask therefore I am”

Find all podcasts and articles — click here and dive into the archives.

Do you want to stay updated? — click here and subscribe to the newsletter!

I ask therefore I am logo

I ask therefore I am (IATIA) investigates the philosophies that are at the foundations of our civilisation, starting there IATIA builds solutions to complex problems.









Zjef Van Acker

Writer, podcast-host & applied philosopher. Manifesting ideas and strategies for a global ecosystem society!