solar foods

Dhruvika writes on sustainable practices in various sectors for BuzzOnEarth. Get in touch with her at dhruvika@buzzonearth.com. Sometimes she reads her emails too.

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Solar is not just limited to providing electricity for appliances. Not anymore. A Finnish company named Solar Foods are making food, that you can eat of course, from carbon dioxide, water, and electricity. This futuristic food is highly sustainable.

The company Solar Foods, is launched by a team of Finnish scientists. They have developed a nutrient-rich vegan protein powder from the air. They used electricity from solar panels to assist bacteria in multiplying and they use the hydrogen and carbon (to form fat and carbohydrates) from the air to make protein.

The method was based in the July 2017 “Food From Electricity” a joint study between the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. It doesn’t require soil, agriculture, weather or climate. It could be the superfood which has a potential to end world hunger.

“In practice, all the raw materials are available from the air. In the future, the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine. One possible alternative is a home reactor, a type of domestic appliance that the consumer can use to produce the needed protein” explained Juha-Pekka Pitkanen, the principal scientist at VTT.

Solar Foods have heavy investments from Lifeline Ventures and VTT Ventures Oy and Green Campus Innovations. Business Finland, a government-owned agency, has also sanctioned a loan to the company.

The food can be eaten by not only humans but can be used as an animal feed too. However, the price of the protein food is still not very feasible compared to soy protein and corn. The company wish to sell their product as sustainable food made from renewable energy.

“Our goal is to develop the protein into a high-quality product whose environmental impact will be 10-100 times smaller than those of meat products or their substitutes currently in the market,” said Solar Foods CEO, Pasi Vainikka.

Still in its testing phase, it aims to start commercial production by 2021. Solar Foods’ method may also eventually be used to create sustainable protein for flights to Mars.

“The conditions in Mars colonies are very different from those on Earth, but they have sunshine, and there are huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere,” said Kimmo Isbjörnssund, manager at the ESA Business Incubation Centre Finland. “The pioneering technology of Solar Foods enables a new way of producing food even in closed spaces. We assume that ingredients available at the Mars base can be used with the new technology.”

“The method of Solar Foods for producing protein arose from a desire to produce food in a more environmentally-friendly way, without using the land. The concept is not dependent on agriculture, weather or climate; instead, it makes possible efficient and low-cost food production with solar energy anywhere, whether in a desert or in space,” added Vainikka.

Image Credit: Solar Foods

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