Agriculture is contributing towards the destruction of the environment. However, there might be a technique to feed ourselves that is considerably more environmentally beneficial. What if we could create wholesome meals out of thin air?
As implausible as that may seem, Finnish food-tech startup Solar Foods claims to have created a method to pull it off.
According to New Scientist, Solar Foods is constructing its first industrial-scale facility close to Helsinki, Finland, to produce food directly from carbon dioxide.
“We are a bit behind schedule, but production may start just about in 2023,” Pasi Vainikka, CEO of Solar Foods, told New Scientist. Vainikka added that the factory would be able to produce 100 tones per year, which would suffice for four or five million meals.
The company has discovered a method for producing Solein, a protein rich in nutrients, using fermentation, air, and electricity. Since almost all raw elements come from the air, Solein can be made almost anywhere, even in dry deserts and abandoned fields.
In fact, Solar Foods wants to be the first company to commercialize food made without the use of fossil fuels or agriculture.
Solein has already undergone two years of testing in a pilot factory. The greatest public grant ever awarded for cellular agriculture is a €34 million grant to Solar Foods from Business Finland, making it the largest such funding in the world.
Solar Foods has set an ambitious goal of revolutionizing food production, alleviating global hunger, and addressing the environmental issues brought on by agricultural practices.
“We are here to replace animal-based nutrition; that’s the big mission, I would say, for all plant-based and similar companies,” Vainikka said.
“The problem in the food system is, broadly speaking, [using] animals and industrialized animal keeping. Like it or not, it’s a fact. Growing and harvesting that kind of nourishment with significantly fewer resources [and without animals] is what we’re doing.”
Despite not being produced in the normal fashion, Solein is a natural protein and has no artificial ingredients. S olein is a yellow powder that can provide protein to various dishes, including dairy-free yogurt, soft cheese, and meat substitutes. It can also provide nutritional value to bread, pasta, drinks, snacks, and meals. In addition, it can be easily incorporated into daily meals because it rarely has any flavor.
The best thing about Solein is that it has an environmental impact of just 10% that of most plant-based proteins and 1% of meat.
Vainikka stated in September 2022 that Solein resembles present foodstuffs. “So it’s very familiar, but it’s a bit of a new combination. The taste is very mild, very neutral,” he said.
“So if we go back to the original problem — 80 percent of all the problems that have to do with food, whether it’s loss of natural habitat or forest loss or whatever, has to do with the industrialized animal production. So actually Solein could solve 80 percent of the problem but 20 percent of the calories because mostly we are, on a calorie basis, eating carbohydrates,” Vainikka added.