A Finnish startup claims that it is making a vegan protein 10 times more climate-friendly than most plant-based proteins and 100 times more climate-friendly than meat.
What if we could grow nutritious food, literally out of thin air?
Solar Foods, a Finnish government-backed food-tech start-up, says it has developed a process to do exactly that. It has succeeded in growing a nutrient rich protein called solein which is made from a single microbe using carbon dioxide – from the air – and hydrogen that is split from water using electricity.
Solar foods Chief Executive Officer, Pasi Vainikka, says the gas fermentation process used to create the protein is comparable in some ways to the way you make beer or wine.
“Typically, for wine-making, you add yeast to this sugary liquid, and this yeast eats sugar for carbon and energy to grow and express some alcohol to the surrounding liquid. We do the same, but our microbe does not eat sugar, but it is hydrogen and carbon dioxide that we bubble in as gases in the fermenter. And that’s where the very fundamental point is how to disconnect from agriculture. No agricultural feedstock is used. The problem in the current food system is that about one third of the climate impact due to human action is due to what we eat, and about 80 per cent of that is due to animal production. So, we need to remove animals from the food supply system to a large extent. Solein (is) nutritionally similar to meat and meat like products, dairy products or milk. And that is what we want to replace.”
Agriculture and related land use is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases worldwide and in 2018, was responsible for pumping 9.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The company’s pilot plant is currently powered by hydro power but they’re seeking to use a mix of hydro, wind and solar to boost their green credentials.
The profile of Solar Foods got a boost after it emerged as one of the winners of the NASA Deep Space Food Challenge.