Gene Boland started with a PhD in biomedical engineering, working on wound healing and tissues when there’s an a shortage of organs for transplant. Today he works as Chief Science Officer at Techshot, where he brings his bioprinting and product development experience to growing chambers and food printers for space exploration - with payloads already launched and exciting tech in development.
What are you doing in your work?
Developing food solutions for low earth orbit, moon and Mars like plant growth systems and cultured / printed proteins.
What prepared you for what you're doing?
I have a PhD in biomedical engineering with an emphasis on extracellular matrices for tissue engineering and wound healing. I started applying bioprinting and bioreactor design to solve issues of tissue deficits and organ shortages. I became involved in the space industry after joining Techshot in 2013 and looked to apply advanced printing and bioreactor technology to solve issues both on earth and off. Fresh and nutritious food is an off earth issue but also affects many on earth as well.
What's an indicator that a food system (or space habitat) is working for the people in it?
Fresh food provides both physical and psychological benefits. Generally well-being would be the first indicator of the health of the food system
What is the most interesting work going on right now in your area?
Developing a system to print and culture tissue in space for human benefit. This ultimately means tissues and organs for transplant but will also develop systems to test compounds in humanized systems without animals and means of producing cultured meats that taste and look like their animal counterparts in an environment where livestock would be impractical.
What innovation outside your direct area is most interesting to you?
High density indoor agriculture (controlled environment agriculture) that can bring a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits to food deserts while also reducing the carbon impact for food transportation. A side effect will be to return to many heirloom plants that were nutritious and flavorful but incompatible with long distance shipping.
What problem related to Space for Food most needs to be addressed?
Sustainability and nutritional density.
What's your favorite food, space, or ag memory?
Working on neighbor's dairy farm as a kid, first successfully grafted fruit tree with my dad in his orchard, and working with an Asian fusion chef in high school (mid 80's) practicing farm to table cuisine before it was common, and the first live SpaceX launch with our hardware onboard (CRS-4 in September of 2014).
What inspires or recharges you?
Anything on or near the water.
Meet Gene and other leaders in the intersection of space, food and the future at Space for Food- From Vision to Reality, where Gene will be part of our thoughtstarter session A Roadmap for Food Systems on Earth and In Space. You can also follow Gene and Techshot on LinkedIn.