Growing food from air ‘more efficient’ than growing crops

A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, the University of Naples Federico II, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, compared the efficiency of growing soybeans with a food-from-air technique.

They used a technique similar to the one used by Finnish food-tech start-up Solar Foods​. It uses electricity to produce hydrogen which is combined with carbon dioxide, water, vitamins and minerals to feed and grow a microbial biomass that produces edible protein powder with no discernible taste that can be added to almost any snack or meal.

According to Solar Foods, utilising common processes which are already used to make staples such as bread, yoghurt and beer offers the chance to cut emissions associated with animal and dairy industries and solve pressing problems of food security amid a growing global population.

The researchers claimed their analysis showed that growing food from air was 10 times as efficient as growing soybeans in the ground.

Production of single-cell protein can therefore “help close the approaching protein gap while curtailing further agricultural land expansion, thus safeguarding biodiversity and the carbon sink potential of forests and grasslands”, ​they wrote in the study.

They also noted that the protein produced using the food-from-air approach had twice the caloric value as most other crops such as corn, wheat and rice.

“These results suggest that microbial foods could substantially contribute to feeding a growing population and can assist in allocating future limited land resources,”​ the researchers added.

“The cultivation of microbial biomass, which is rich in proteins as well as other nutrients, can play a vital role in achieving food security while mitigating the negative environmental footprint of agriculture.”

The​ researchers added that the commercial viability of air-grown food is likely to improve as land resources become scarce and conventional food sources become increasingly expensive and unsustainable.

Combining solar power and microbes could produce 10 times more protein than crops such, according to the study.

But study lead Dorian Leger added that getting consumers to eat microbial protein would be challenging. “Marketers will have to work on this, and food scientists will have to make the product appealing. I think it should be possible,”​ he told FoodNavigator. “Current trends seem to support a product microbial foods gaining traction. Insect protein was unfathomable in most western settings a few years ago, now we see it in a lot of supermarkets. Quorn is successfully using fungi – that’s promising.”

“I think, socially responsible and environmental awareness will be drivers for consumers choosing products like PV-SCP. The land, water, and nutrient use efficiency is really impressive relative to crops…Space systems are very likely to use microbial foods, in my opinion.”

He noted that protein made from air was more promising as animal feed. “It is much easier to design a product for feed and this is already established by Calysta, Unibio, Knipbio, etc, though these companies are not using a renewable-power production chain like we envisage. Animal-based foods (meat, dairy etc) products using sustainably grown protein could be appealing to some consumers, and they may be willing to pay more for these products.”

Website Link (Article by Oliver Morrison)

Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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