Finnish startup makes food out of thin air

Food made out of thin air.

It’s what Finnish startup Solar Food is offering as an alternative to meat and milk.

Their main product is called Solein – a yellow flour containing some 65% protein.

Aside from carbon dioxide, the other ingredients needed to make Solein are: electricity, microbes, water, nutrients, vitamins, and a miniature bioreactor.

The Solein flour could be added to foods like bread and pasta or schnitzel.

But instead of ploughing, fertilizing and harvesting, the flour stems from dried liquid made in a miniature bioreactor inside a laboratory.

Solar Foods Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer, Juha–Pekka Pitkanen: "We take one colony from here from the Agar plate and then we cultivate this in a shake-flask and basically then from the shake-flask we take it to more shake-flask and eventually to the smaller reactor and then to big reactor and then in the big reactor it grows in a continuous scale. (Reporter asking: So that's the start?) PITKANEN HOLDING PETRI DISH "Yes, this is the start of the cultivation."

The process requires significantly fewer resources than meat or milk and the use of 'direct air capture' to suck in CO2 from the atmosphere is good news for the environment, says Solar Foods Chief Executive Pasi Vainikka.

"Our gift to the society is disconnection from agriculture. We don't use any agriculture raw materials even. Therefore we can let agriculture land to be freed from agriculture and basically let forests grow back. Therefore, when we replace existing proteins and foods with our ingredient, actually it's a carbon negative technology because the forests grow back and they remove carbon dioxide from the air."

''First it will appear in the market as a magic protein enriching ingredient that brings nutritional value to plant based products like drinks, dairy products, yoghurts and similar and meat alternatives.’’

Expectations for the protein are high.

In December 2020, Solar Foods received a $5.20 million of government funding.

The company hopes to introduce their product to the market in early 2023.