A Finnish start-up is planning to produce 50 million meals worth of food made from just water, electricity and air in what represents a completely new, fully carbon neutral way to make food for human consumption.
The future of food is the burning question of today, with the world’s population predicted to grow significantly before stabilising in the next 50 years, traditional agricultural methods will come under intense strain. Add to that the environmental impact of carbon heavy agriculture and the urgent need to reduce it, scientists are looking at new and previously unthinkable ways to create food to feed the future.
Solar Foods, a Helsinki-based company is proposing a new way of creating a protein rich ingredient that relies on just water, electricity and air, first as a source of nutrition for astronauts on long-term space missions but also a way to fed the masses, aiming for 50 million meals worth of the new product on supermarket shelves in the next two years.
The Guardian reports that the start-up is working with the European Space Agency to supply astronauts on a mission to Mars with the new food, called Solein, which looks and tastes like wheat flour and can be produced for as little as €5 a kilo.
Solein is produced through a similar process as brewing beer. Living microbes are fed with carbon dioxide and hydrogen bubbles, which are released from water by the application of electricity. The microbes create a protein which is then dried to create a powder. The powder can be given texture through 3D printing or added to food as an ingredient. The powder could also be pulled in ‘fibres’ resembling meat or bread.
Solar Foods claims that Solein represents a “new kind of harvest” and could disrupt a thousand years of production practices. Since humans turned to agriculture 10,000 years ago the basic elements of production have stayed the same. This is an entirely new, carbon neutral protein source that provide a solution to the increasing demands on our food system.
It may sound like science fiction, but only a few short years ago the idea of a lab-grown burgerseemed like something from a Phillip K. Dick novel. Today the plant-based Impossible Burger is a hugely successful company with soaring stocks and product available in your local restaurant.