Solein from Solar Foods could do environmental good while feeding the planet
Arguably two of the greatest threats facing humanity in the not-too-distant-future are food shortages and elevated levels of carbon in the atmosphere. If Finnish company Solar Foods is successful in its mission, both concerns could be addressed in one product.
The company’s food product, Solein, is created using carbon taken from CO2 in the air and using electrolysis to create a high-protein edible.
The food tech company, founded in 2017, took inspiration from a NASA program in creating Solein — a single-cell protein that is created using only water, carbon dioxide, and electricity. The creation uses electricity from solar power to split water molecules and provide energy to microbes that are fed carbon from the CO2.
Ultimately, the microbes produce the food, which is comprised of 50 percent protein, 20-25 percent carbs, and around 5-10 percent fat. The result looks a bit like baking flour but Solein will most likely be used as an ingredient in other products such as protein shakes and potentially yogurt and meat alternatives like plant-based burgers. Solar Foods plans to have Solein products on the shelves in two years.
With the production of meat and dairy on pace to become the top causes of pollution in the world, finding an alternative — even a partial alternative — to meat could help alleviate some of the agriculture industry’s carbon footprint. On top of that, the production of Solein (when scaled) could greatly contribute to carbon capturing efforts that are ongoing.
Similarly, as researchers and food tech companies are exploring new ways to feed an ever-growing population, making food without the need for arable land is increasingly important. Not only does this form of food production save space, it also is not reliant on climate conditions.
In 2018, the European Space Agency reached out to create a plan for creating food in space that will ideally be consumed by astronauts traveling to Mars. If this is achieved, Solar Foods could be providing the food of the future well beyond the confines of Earth.