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Startups are Making Protein from Air


With fermentation-derived proteins, start-ups are making proteins for humans and animals with air as the main feedstock.

Plants were thought to be the best source of sustainable proteins out there. Recently, however, scientists have been developing microbial "factories," and even taking ingredients out of the air, to produce new forms of protein.

Finnish startup Solar Foods makes a protein derived through gas-based fermentation—or using enzymatic reactions to convert carbon dioxide, with minimal amounts of water, nutrients and electricity, into human-edible proteins. The protein can be used as a replacement for flour in food production.

NovoNutrients is another company that uses gas-based fermentation to produce nutrients for fish feed. The company hopes to produce a better and more affordable product for the aquaculture sector that needs more proteins.

Motif Ingredients, a well-funded spin off from Ginko Bioworks, has also announced they'll be using fermentation to develop vital proteins and nutrients for human consumption.

Startups like Geltor and Perfect Day are developing animal-free collagen and dairy proteins respectively.

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Most of these companies use microbial technologies along with computational biotech. For instance, Solar Foods' Solein® enables natural protein production by growing a microbe in liquid in a fermentation tank. It's process is similar to the one used in breweries, but instead of feeding sugars to the microbes, Solar Foods' microbe is fed hydrogen bubbles, air, nutrients and vitamins.

Relevant industries

  • Food and Beverage
  • Animal feed
  • Know more about this innovation from

    This company has worked out how to make food out of thin air

    Here's a report on Solar Foods' plans to bring to market a new protein powder, It says, "Solein, made out of CO2, water and electricity. It's a high-protein, flour-like ingredient that contains 50 percent protein content, reportedly looks and tastes like wheat flour, and could become an ingredient in a wide variety of food products after its initial launch in 2021."

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    Food Out of Thin Air? - Solar Foods Full Interview

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    Slush Deeptech Showcase: Solar Foods

    Video featuring Solar Foods showcases how solar food technology works.

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    Food Out of Thin Air

    Pasi Vainikka, co-founder and CEO of Solar Foods, explains how his company uses renewable energy and carbon dioxide to create a sustainable protein solution at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

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    Search key words

  • Microalgae-based proteins
  • Gas fermentation to produce proteins
  • CO2 to proteins
  • CO2 fermentation for proteins
  • Using nitrogen and CO2 in air to make proteins

  • Learn more around this innovation

    Can You Really Make 'Meat' Out of Air?

    This LiveScience report provides some inputs on the process process that combines the air elements carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen to make a nutrient-rich protein.

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