Giving Compass' Take:

• Solar Foods, Finland-based company, is developing a way to create alternative protein ingredient using renewable electricity and CO2.

• What are other examples of alternative meat products? Do you see any in your local community stores? How can funding sustainable meat production help reduce negative impacts on the environment? 

• Read about investments in food sustainability. 

The startups using new technology to pull carbon dioxide from the airare beginning to use that CO2 to make products like fuel and, in one case, inviting consumers to pay to store it underground as a way to fight climate change. But it can also be an ingredient in food.

Solar Foods, a Finland-based company, has developed a process to use renewable electricity and CO2 to produce a healthy ingredient that looks like wheat flour and contains 50% protein. The company is currently gathering data to apply for a food license from the EU later this year and plans to begin commercial production in 2021.

“We started to think about what are the preconditions that you could have in order to establish the most environmentally friendly food,” says CEO and cofounder Pasi Vainikka, who previously worked as a researcher at Finland’s national research institute. By using the basic materials of electricity and CO2, they realized, it would be possible to make food that could avoid the massive environmental footprint of agriculture—which comprises everything from land and water use to the emissions from fertilizing crops or raising animals.

Food made through fermentation, like beer or lab-grown meat, currently relies on feeding plant sugars to microbes. The new process replaces those sugars with carbon. The process uses solar power to split water through electrolysis in a bioreactor, creating hydrogen that can give microbes energy as they’re also fed carbon. The microbes produce a food that’s composed of roughly 20-25% carbs, 5-10% fat, and 50% protein.

It’s a far more efficient way to produce protein than raising cattle. Producing a single burger, by one estimate, requires 64.5 square feet of land, mostly for cattle feed. Grazing cattle and growing grains to feed them are both leading causes of deforestation in places like the Amazon.

Read the full article about burgers made from CO2 by Adele Peters at Fast Company.