The new food made almost from thin air
Author: Liam Taylor
A new kind of food made from electricity, water and air has been invented that could completely revolutionise how we understand food.
Finnish company Solar Foods is responsible for inventing Solein, a protein-heavy powder that can be given texture through 3D printing or added to food products as an ingredient. The company plans to produce 50 million meals’ worth of the product for sale in supermarkets within two years.
Solein is created through a fermentation process similar to brewing beer or other alcoholic beverages. Microbes are put in liquid and provided with carbon dioxide, hydrogen bubbles and electricity. These elements react to create a protein that can be dried to make the Solein powder.
Solar Foods chief executive Dr Pasi Vainikka told The Guardian the powder was a revolutionary food in that it is not derived from either plants or animals.
“It is a completely new kind of food, a new kind of protein, different to all the food on the market today in how it is produced as it does not need agriculture or aquaculture,” Dr Vainikka said.
The discovery could be very significant in the face of global environmental issues such as climate change given its reduced greenhouse gas emissions and land use. The minimum greenhouse gas emission level per kg of protein was just 0.4kg CO2 for Solein compared to 45kg for beef, while Solein used just 1.9 square metres of land per kg of protein compared to 165 square metres for beef and lamb.
It is estimated that livestock farming accounts for approximately 15 percent of anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions while occupying about one third of all ice-free land. Freeing up some of this land from agriculture by turning to an alternative food source could provide more space for afforestation and other positive environmental initiatives.
- One of the best things an individual can do to address global environmental issues such as climate change is to reduce meat intake and move towards a plant-based diet. For more information, check out the United Nations’ latest Global Environment Outlook report.
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