10.9.2019

Eco Food Made Out Of CO2, Water, And Electricity Could Be Available In 2 Years

lab-grown meat to synthetic coffee, companies have been coming up with all kinds of technological ways for making food to lessen the ever-growing burden of agricultural land use on the planet. Now, a Finnish startup called Solar Foods has developed a way to produce edible protein from CO₂, water, and electricity. It plans to bring the ingredient to the market as soon as 2021. Solein, as it is called, is a high-protein, flour-like ingredient that contains 50% protein content, 5–10% fat, and 20–25% carbs. It is said to look and taste like wheat flour. It will likely make its first appearance on grocery shelves as a powder supplement or in protein shakes and yoghurt. After its initial launch, it could go on to become an ingredient in a wide variety of food products.

The Process

Solein is made by extracting CO₂ from the air using carbon-capture technology and then combining it with water, nutrients and vitamins. The ingredients go through a similar process to brewing beer.
  • Living microbes derived from soil are put in liquid and fed with carbon dioxide, hydrogen bubbles, and other nutrients such as potassium, sodium, and phosphorus.
  • The hydrogen bubbles are created through a process called electrolysis which splits water cells in a bioreactor using electricity.
  • The microbes create protein – which is then dried (heat-treated) to make the powder.
The company uses 100% renewable solar energy from partner Fortum to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
Protein powder made from thin air, designed by nature
Credit: Solar Foods
The end product could be consumed in three ways:
  1. As a protein supplement to existing foods, such as breads or drinks
  2. As an ingredient in plant-based meat alternatives, such as veggie burgers
  3. As a sustainable source of amino acids needed to create lab-grown meat products

Minimal Environmental Impact

The agriculture and meat industries (including beef, poultry, pork, and fish) are known culprits driving climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. The effects are disastrous – from the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals – the current situation is unsustainable. Pasi Vainikka, CEO of Solar Foods, told VICE:
It’s not good enough to change the energy system actually, we also need to change how and what we eat. If you want to…reduce climate impact, you would need to disconnect from land use and this is what we can now do with this technology. We don’t use any agriculture FEED-STOCKS in our products, so we can make food in space or in the desert or the Arctic. Our goal is to develop the protein into a high-quality product whose environmental impact will be 10-100 times smaller than those of meat products or their substitutes currently in the market.
Solar Foods’ environmentally friendly process does not depend on weather, land availability or other natural resources and it’s a low-cost way to make a protein that can scale over time. All you need to make more protein is a bigger bioreactor tank and additional microbes.

Space Food!

Mars space concept
Photo Credit: HP Inc.
The Solar Foods production process arose from research conducted by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). From there, the company partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) to work on food production for future space flights. The idea is for their food to supply astronauts on a mission to Mars! Kimmo Isbjörnssund, Manager, ESA Business Incubation Centre Finland, said:
The conditions in Mars colonies are very different from those on Earth, but they have sunshine, and there are huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere. The pioneering technology of Solar Foods enables a new way of producing food even in closed spaces. We assume that ingredients available at the Mars base can be used with the new technology.

What Next?

Next, it plans to begin the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and then publish plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually. Solar Foods’ manufacturing process is carbon neutral and the potential for scalability seems unlimited so it’s a very exciting project!   This article appeared on the Intelligent Living website at https://www.intelligentliving.co/food-made-of-co2-water-electricity/]]>

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