“We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years,” writes environmental campaigner and journalist in The Guardian. And it is a shift away from meat to plant-based foods that will potentially save the planet’s biodiversity.
Monibot is generally a pessimistic voice when it comes to the state of the planet, but in his new documentary Apocalypse Cow, he finds hope in the strides made by scientists in creating alternative proteins in new and more efficient ways.
Solar Foods, a Finnish start-up who has developed Solein a protein made from Water, electricity and air, is just one such project lauded in the documentary.
Solein is created in a lab, by splitting hydrogen from water with electricity. The hydrogen is then fed to a primordial bacteria found in the soil producing a protein. When the protein, which takes the form of white powder is finished, it is ready to be consumed.
While filming Apocalypse Cow, Monibot became the first person outside the laboratory to actually taste it. It tasted of nothing, which, Solar Foods says is the point. Solein will be used as ‘filler’ protein, as a replacement for the likes of palm oil a feedstock for almost everything.
Monibot tatsed it in a pancake. “They set up a frying pan in the lab,” he says, “mixed the flour with oat milk, and I took my small step for man. It tasted … just like a pancake.”
After their breakthrough last year, armed with new investment, Solar Foods, are getting ready to scale up their operation.
“We are doing pretty well so far. Once we scale the factory from the first one by adding reactors (to ferment protein) and take into account the amazing improvements in other clean technologies like wind and solar power, we think we can compete with soya possibly as early as 2025,” said Solar Foods’ CEO is Pasi Vainikka.
Farming and fishing are the biggest cause of animal species extinction, destroying biodiversity and threatening our entire ecosystem. A global soil crisis threatens our ability to subsist on the land through a loss of fertility through erosion, compaction and contamination, and the UN predicts that by 2050 in order to feed the planet, current agriculture will require 20% more water. If there were more reasons needed to look for alternative food sources, they are not difficult to find.
Research by the thinktank RethinkX suggests that proteins from precision fermentation will be around 10 times cheaper than animal protein by 2035. The shift to a plant-based diet is an inevitability. After 12,000 years of farming, we're ready to change the way we eat and today we are witnessing the ferment of that change.
“But just as hope appeared to be evaporating, ‘farmfree food’ creates astonishing possibilities to save both people and planet,” says Monibot.
“By temporarily shifting towards a plant-based diet, we can help buy the time to save species and places.
“But farmfree food offers hope where hope was missing. We will soon be able to feed the world without devouring it.”