This yellow protein is made from air

A new ingredient has been described as the world’s most sustainable protein.

A Finnish startup is preparing to commercialise Solein which is made in a lab from air, water and renewable electricity, for use in health foods and meat alternatives.

The neutral-flavoured yellow powder is 65 per cent protein and has been described as the most sustainable protein in the world.  Not only is it independent of the weather, it uses far less land and water than traditional meat and milk production, and is also carbon negative, drawing CO2 from the atmosphere during the production process.

The startup, Solar Foods, has so far raised €24.8M to commercialise Solein, with €4.3M most recently pledged from Business Finland, which previously co-financed Solar Foods’ pilot phase. Other backers have included private investment companies and a Finnish baker and confectioner Fazer.

As a company, we have two important tasks ahead of us: finalising the development of Solein to become market-ready and constructing our demonstration factory

Dr Pasi Vainikka

Solar Foods CEO and co-founder

Solar-Foods_Pasi-Vainikka
Source: Solar Foods

Solar Foods is currently building a demonstration factory to create new food products based on Solein and has so far developed more than 20 different products.

Initially, Solein will be used to enrich existing products like drinks and dairy products, but it could also be used to bind products, or within plant-based meat alternatives, says Solar Foods CEO and co-founder, Dr Pasi Vainikka.

“As a company, we have two important tasks ahead of us: finalising the development of Solein to become market-ready and constructing our demonstration factory,” Dr Vainikka says.

The company hopes to introduce its first products to the market in early 2023.

The tech:

Solein is made using living microbes in a miniature bioreactor located in a lab. The other ingredients are renewable electricity, water, carbon dioxide drawn from the air, nitrogen and some minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium and zinc. Just 10 litres of water is needed for every kilogram of Solein that is produced. Production is based on natural fermentation, as with brewing beer. This fermentation takes place in huge vats, and the resulting liquid is removed and dried to form the final product – a yellow high-protein flour-like powder. Solein is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids and is described by its maker as light in both taste and appearance. It can also be produced in the toughest of environmental conditions, Solar Foods says, including the desert, the Arctic, and potentially even in space.

Who funds it:

Solar Foods has raised €24.8M to commercialise Solein, with €4.3M most recently pledged from Business Finland, which previously co-financed the company’s pilot phase.

Is it ready to roll:

The company is currently constructing a demonstration factory to create new food products. The company hopes to introduce its product to the market in early 2023.

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