Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2022

World Food Day

Thomas Pesquet

“Even in the technological environment, [which is] very hostile, we are trying to still grow our food, grow plants, see what it takes for them to be more resilient to a harsh environment to be applied on the ground.”  
30/09/2022

France 

Since 2018, European Space Agency Astronaut (ESA) Thomas Pesquet has been working with FAO to advocate for greater food security, the fight against hunger and climate change, and more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems. After officially being nominated an FAO Goodwill Ambassador in 2021, he sent a message from space to youth at the Junior World Food Day event, calling on them to take action.  

Thomas has also been carrying out important work in space to address climate change. In April 2021, he travelled with three other astronauts on a six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS) where they conducted a series of experiments including growing cotton, peppers and cress. By attempting to grow under these harsh conditions, with little to no water or soil, Thomas hopes that farmers can learn more about plants and apply this knowledge on Earth to improve their resilience and make them more resistant to changes in natural conditions.   

“Cotton is a very water intense plant so it needs a lot of water. By studying how it adapts to microgravity and how this changes the way it behaves and grows…hopefully we can reduce the need for water.”  

There is no doubt that agriculture is already benefitting from space exploration. Data collected by satellites in space can be used to help farmers decide when they should plant, irrigate, treat for pests or harvest and it is key to developing precision agriculture. FAO and the ESA are already collaborating to ensure that data gathered in space is made available to countries, so they can better plan their future food and agricultural policies.  

Being on board the ISS, 400 KM from Earth, has led Thomas to develop a profound recognition of the delicate nature of our planet and its finite resources – an insight he hopes to pass on to others in a bid to accelerate change.  

“We see things changing slowly. We hope in the future they’re going to change faster.”  

Thomas Pesquet splashed down to Earth on 9 November 2021 and is calling for action in person during World Food Day events in Rome. An exhibit with his photos from space highlight the effects of climate change and human activity and is set to feature in Rome, Rimini, Panama City, Brussels and other world capitals.