Finnish Food Future

Solar Foods, a Finnish company, makes a weird promise on the landing page of its website; but still, thanks to the Guardian for this story behind the story:

A soya bean field in Argentina. The study found a hectare of soya beans could feed 40 people, the solar-microbial process 520 per hectare. Photograph: Ivan Pisarenko/AFP/Getty Images

Microbes and solar power ‘could produce 10 times more food than plants’

The system would also have very little impact on the environment, in contrast to livestock farming, scientists say

Combining solar power and microbes could produce 10 times more protein than crops such as soya beans, according to a new study.

The system would also have very little impact on the environment, the researchers said, in stark contrast to livestock farming which results in huge amounts of climate-heating gases as well as water pollution.

The concept uses electricity from solar panels and carbon dioxide from the air to create fuel for microbes, which are grown in bioreactor vats and then processed into dry protein powders. The process makes highly efficient use of land, water and fertiliser and could be deployed anywhere, not just in countries with strong sunshine or fertile soils, the scientists said.

Food security is a “critical issue” for humanity in coming decades, they said, with the global population growing, biofuels competing for land with crops, and about 800 million people already undernourished today. Furthermore, tackling the climate crisis will be near impossible without slashing emissions from animal and dairy food production.

Microbes are already used to make many common foods, such as bread, yoghurt, beer and Quorn. But other researchers said converting consumers to eating microbial protein might be difficult and that such foods may not be nutritionally complete.

Dorian Leger, at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany, who led the new analysis, said: “We think microbial foods are very promising and will be one of the major contributors to solving the potential food crisis.

“It might pick up quite quickly on the consumer side, but it’s hard to say. “But I do some exercise, and if I was offered a bacterial protein shake now, I would have it.”

The team focused on soya beans, as these are linked to the destruction of forests and are mostly fed to animals, but other bacteria produce the main elements of palm oil. “Bacteria are very flexible, so they could eventually be tuned to different products,” Leger said.

At least a dozen companies are already producing animal feed from microbes but the bacteria are typically fed either sugars from other crops or methane or methanol from fossil fuels. Solar Foods, based in Finland, is using electricity to create food for humans.

Read the whole story here.

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