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Solar Foods Ltd and NASA Make Edible Food Out of Thin Air!

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  • Solar Foods, in cooperation with NASA and ESA, are harvesting carbon dioxide and turning it into food.
  • The resulting product is called Solein – a protein-rich product that tastes like wheat flour but looks like a protein powder shake.
  • Solar Foods said they are able to produce 60,000 kg product per hectare, which is almost 1,000x more than traditional farming.
  • It is projected to be sustainable, renewable and environment-friendly food of the future that will just cost 5 euros per kilo.

Ever wondered what would happen if we ran out of food sources in the planet? Should we learn to filter-feed air like Spongebob Squarepants? Well, worry not! Because food made out of thin air has just become a reality!

It all started with an idea from NASA. What if all that excess carbon dioxide in the air is harvested and turned into protein building blocks? After years of research and perfecting the bioreaction, Finnish company Solar Foods did just that.

Pasi Vainikka, CEO and founder of Solar Foods explained in a tech showcase in 2019 how the process was made. Basically, they have a carbon capture equipment that harvests it from the carbon dioxide in the air. These are then reacted with vitamins, minerals, some water and electricity generated from solar energy. The process is similar to yeast fermentation and the resulting product is a flour-like and protein-rich compound, which they named – Solein.

A simple diagram explaining Solein food bioprocess:
Watch this video for a short explanation of how they make food out of thin air:

Solein tastes just like wheat flour and can also have varying textures. It can range from flour-like, protein-shake or panko (bread-crumb) looking or fibery. The applications are endless to making breads, pasta and pastry, to making meat-like food, and even shakes and yogurts.

Aside frombeing environment-friendly and sustainable, it is nutritious, too! According to reports, the product is composed of up to 65-75% protein, 10-20% carbohydrates, 4-10% fat, and 4-10% minerals.

What solein looks like:

The astronauts from the European Space Agency might be the first consumers for Solein as Solar Foods is currently seeking a license in EU and a partnership with ESA. Large-scale consumer production is projected to start in 2021.

All in all, it does look like a promising solution to worldwide food shortage. It may also address our problems in obesity if the ingredients have lower sugar and carbohydrate content. We can all just hope it does taste as good as it all appears in concept.

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