Scientist in Lab

Scientist’s Have Developed A Sustainable Way Of Making Food ‘Out Of Thin Air’

According to the United Nations the human race has until 2050 to double its entire food production if we want a chance at keeping up with the exponential rate at which the population is growing. Within the past decade, keeping up with feeding the rising population on Earth has been a major strain on our natural resources, thus contributing to climate change while simultaneously feeling the effects of it as well. 

The animal farming industry by itself is responsible for about 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions annually. The industrialization of the animal farming industry is what’s hurting it the most in terms of its contribution to climate change. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the farming industry alone accounts for 70% of the water we use every year, and that’s a worldwide statistic. 

The OECD also claims that the large amount of land that most of the farms in the industry use could be utilized to create new agriculture that would work to combat the effects of climate change, but farm owners aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to give up their land. 

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Lucky for us, there are plenty of scientists and start-ups around the world that are looking for more sustainable ways of producing food that would allow a lot of the pressure to be taken off of the farming industry. New reports claim that scientists in Finland are working with the company Solar Foods to create the most sustainable food production techniques imaginable. Their newest accomplishment involves simply using air, water, and electricity to produce food out of thin air.

Well, maybe not “food out of thin air” as that makes it seem like they’re combining water, air, and a spark to make a cheeseburger, however, they’re creating an essential base to most foods that could be processed into all sorts of classic eats. The base itself is a new natural source of protein that the scientists are naming Solein. The biggest benefit of this protein is how much more environmentally friendly its production is as compared to other means of food production. 

“Solein is made by growing a microbe in a fermentation tank. It’s similar to the process used in breweries, but instead of feeding it sugars, as you would when brewing beer, this microbe eats only hydrogen bubbles, carbon dioxide, nutrients and vitamins. Scientists make hydrogen by applying electricity to water, and sources carbon dioxide by extracting it from air, hence ‘food out of thin air.’ You end up with a powder that is about 65 percent protein and carbs and fats,” Pasi Vainikka, CEO of Solar Foods, told CNN.

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The best part? The entire process is powered by renewable energy exclusively. Solein by itself can’t be made into new foods yet, however, it can be added on top of things like bread and pasta or plant-based foods to ensure that the consumer is getting enough protein, fat, and carbs in their diet to remain healthy, without hurting the environment. The ultimate goal is to be able to use Solein as a base for multiple food creations so that humans no longer have to exclusively rely on the farming industry for all of its food.

Solar Foods went on record to say that the production of Solein is 100 times more “climate friendly” than meat production, and 10 times more than plant-based proteins like quinoa or peanuts. It also uses much less water especially when compared to the farming industry.

So far, the production and distribution of Solein is still in its initial stages. The Finland based scientists claim that for now they have the goal of producing a kilo of Solein per day. According to Vainikka, they can market the powder at the same price as traditional meat or plant-based protein ingredients, as one kilogram of Solein costs about $5 to make.  

Vainikka and the team are aiming to have Solein more commercially integrated into the world’s food markets by the end of 2021, it’s just all a matter of mass production and advancement at this point. For now, we’re on the right path to a more sustainable food industry.