The Finnish start-up Solar Foods is developing a revolutionary new nutrient, which almost literally out of thin air. The protein, which is based on hydrogen and soil bacteria, will be in a position to compete with soy by as early as 2025 and will be ten times more efficient.
The food of the future?
By mixing bacteria with hydrogen, an unseen kind of flour is created that could become the food of the future. The idea originated with space food in the 1960's, but is now being put into practice for the first time at the Solar Foods lab in Helsinki.
Water is split into hydrogen particles using electrolysis; the end result is a yellowish protein flour, which is both flavourless and without odour. That is precisely the intention, because it can then be used for almost any kind of food. The developers see it as a possible basis for pasta and bread, as well as a possible replacement for palm oil in sauces, biscuits and more.
The powder, called Solein, could also play an extremely important role in the meat industry. By 2025, the producer expects to be able to match the cost price of soy, which makes it an interesting alternative to animal food. Even better for the environment and the over-exploited planet: the new protein could also serve as a basis for artificial meat or fish.
5.5 million euros raised
Since it requires almost no surface area and hardly any raw materials, the Finnish scientists believe their system is hyper efficient and sustainable. However, ready availability and cheap, renewable electricity are prerequisites, as electricity is a crucial part of the process. Solar Foods has already secured an initial investment round of 5.5 million euros for further development and commercialisation.
More and more frequently, scientists are turning to synthetic foods to address climate issues and increasing levels of food scarcity. Agriculture as we know it today is an important factor in the ongoing climate crisis,, researcher George Monbiot says in his documentary entitled Apocalypse Cow. We are therefore evolving towards 'farm-free' food - especially if, by 2035, synthetic food can indeed be ten times more efficient than photosynthesis and ten times cheaper than animal food.