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Food for Future: Protein from CO2

Food for Future: Protein from CO2

A soy plant needs three basic ingredients from which it produces a protein that we can eat: Carbon as a building material, which usually comes from CO2 in the air, sunlight as an energy source, and a few substances from the air and earth in smaller amounts (such as minerals and trace elements).

The finnish startup „Solar Foods“makes a protein powder from these ingredients. The company has christened its solar protein from light and air "Solein". However, the substances are not converted by photosynthesis, but in a closed process similar to brewing beer. The technology behind this was developed by Nasa. The basic idea: microbes grown by fermentation need, in order to grow, only energy from hydrogen produced with solar power and the main components of air - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. "In small amounts, we add some nutrients. The fertilizer, so to speak," explains Pasi Vainikka, founder of Solar Foods.

The result is Solein, a white powder that is said to resemble relatively neutral wheat protein in taste and, like soy protein, contains all the essential amino acids, so in principle it can meet a person's complete protein needs. It could be added to other foods such as plant-based drinks, yogurt, pasta or meat substitutes. This is good for the climate, because solein is CO2-neutral and saves arable land: "If photovoltaic systems are installed on the fields instead of soy plants and the electricity generated is used to produce solein, the yield in calories is around ten times that of soy," says Vainikka. Fertilizers, water consumption, pesticides, and deforestation were eliminated. In October 2021, the start-up applied for Europe-wide approval and expects to enter the market in the fall of 2023. By then, the first factory in Helsinki should also be in place and the product should be on the market at a price of about 6 euros per kilogram of protein.

Education about the value of varied and nutritious diets for better nutrition is required to promote food security. There will be enough staple foods in the markets with additional food options and a global society that is aware of the value of a varied sustainable and healthy diet and with the help of this knowledge able to support the achievement of certain Sustainable Development Goals.

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