Solar Foods has developed a process to grow nutritious food, literally out of thin air.
The Finnish food-tech start-up has managed to grow a nutrient rich protein called solein. It is made from a single microbe using carbon dioxide – from the air – and hydrogen that is split from water using electricity.
The gas fermentation process used to create the protein is comparable in some ways to how you make beer or wine, Solar foods CEO, Pasi Vainikka, says. He added:
“Typically, for example, in winemaking you add yeast to this sugarish liquid, and this yeast eats sugar for carbon and energy to grow and express some alcohol to 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 technology could have far-reaching benefits for the future of our species both on Earth and in outer space, if it‘s scalable.
Construction of its first large-scale factory began at the end of 2021. It will be a hundred times larger than this pilot plant. It is expected to produce four million Solein meals a year when it becomes operational in the first half of 2023.