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This company is making food out of 'thin air' and it could be a complete game-changer for Earth

The protein reportedly has no discernible taste and can be added to almost any snack or meal like bread and pasta, or even to plant-based meat or dairy substitutes.

This company is making food out of 'thin air' and it could be a complete game-changer for Earth
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images

In Finland, an ambitious company is now on the verge of revolutionizing the way food is produced. Scientists at the Helsinki-based company, Solar Foods, are currently working on an entirely new protein made from air, water, and renewable electricity. Researchers hope the revolutionary natural source of a protein named Solein will help tackle many of the problems associated with farming as agriculture is one of the world's largest sources of greenhouse gases. It reportedly has no discernible taste and can be added to almost any snack or meal like bread and pasta, or even to plant-based meat or dairy substitutes.



According to CNN, feeding the planet's ever-growing population has placed a huge strain on Earth's resources. Vast areas of land that could otherwise be home to carbon-storing forests are used for farming, which is also responsible for 70% of the water-use across the world. Pasi Vainikka, CEO of Solar Foods, hopes to do something about this. "In order to save the planet from climate change, we need to disconnect food production from agriculture," he said. This is where Solein comes in. Described by the company as "food out of thin air," it is said to have a tiny carbon footprint.



The production process of Solein is more or less similar that used in breweries. The protein is made by growing a microbe in liquid in a fermentation tank, but instead of feeding on sugars (as in the case of beer), Solar Foods' microbe only eats hydrogen bubbles, carbon dioxide, nutrients, and vitamins. The company produces hydrogen by applying electricity to water and sources carbon dioxide from the air—hence the "food out of thin air" description. As the entire process is powered by renewable energy, it minimizes Solein's carbon footprint. "You end up with a powder that is about 65 percent protein and carbs and fats," said Vainikka.



Solar Foods has high hopes for its product, claiming that it could even be used as a food source for lab-grown meat. Solein's production is said to be 100 times more climate-friendly than meat and 10 times better than plant-based proteins while also using far less water than traditional farming. "Protein production shouldn’t be limited by our world’s natural resources. Neither should it burden our environment. That’s why we created Solein–protein so pure, it’s literally born out of thin air. If 'science is real magic,' then it’s time to meet the magic powder of science. Solein is a unique single-cell protein born from an equally extraordinary bioprocess of electricity and air. Its fully natural fermentation process is similar to the production of yeast, resulting in the purest and most sustainable protein in the world," the Solar Foods website states.



"Neutral in taste and appearance, Solein vanishes into your daily meal, while simultaneously maintaining its rich nutritional value. By offering a unified solution that caters to virtually every imaginable meal of today, Solein creates a dazzling world of opportunities for entirely new foods of tomorrow. Not bad for a magic trick. Solein not only provides natural protein into a wide range of existing and future foods but also does it in a more energy-efficient way than ever before. By offering a platform that disconnects food production from agriculture, Solein is protein as pure as it is sustainable," the description adds.



Speaking of the revolutionary new protein, Tomas Linder—an associate professor of microbiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences—stated that proteins derived from microbes could help feed the planet while reducing emissions. He also pointed out that since Solar Foods uses carbon dioxide as the carbon source for Solein, this type of food can be produced pretty much anywhere in the world. This would free up land for forests which would absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.



However, Linder also cautioned about the potential carbon emissions associated with these kinds of products. "You also have to consider that at the amount we have to produce, you would need to build huge bioreactors, with lots of concrete and steel," he explained, pointing out that this would result in extra carbon emissions. Meanwhile, Solar Foods plans to have Solein in the market and in millions of meals by 2021. 


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