Solar Foods aims to develop a vegan protein food product with an environmental impact 10-100 times less than those of meat products and meat substitutes on the market. Their bioprocess is called Solein. Solar Foods partnered with the European Space Agency to work on food production for space flights and for food production on Mars in the future. Solar Foods has received 2 million euros in funding and commercial production its protein product is planned for 2021. The company's small steel bioreactor tank resembles the replicator seen on Star Trek.
The Solar Foods production process is based on research from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). Air and electricity are the main ingredients. Using solar power, water is electrolyzed to make hydrogen. Hydrogen, carbon dioxide and minerals are combined and fed to microbes which make protein. Then a protein powder is created by heat-treating the microbes.
Solar Foods’ microbial cells have a protein content of up to 60 percent and amino acid composition similar to soybeans or algae. The heat-treated powder will be similar in appearance and texture to dried milk and could be used to enrich foods such as bread or pasta.
The company has a pilot plant near Helsinki that is intended as a precursor to commercial-scale operations. Human and animal testing by the European Food Authority (EFA) will be required. A full-scale plant would be similar to a brewery, except without the need for land use because unlike a brewery, no plant materials go into it. The Solein bioprocess is also claimed to use a fraction of the water compared to conventional protein production.
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- Cluster: Clean technologyA process, product, or service which reduces negative impacts on the environment while offering competitive returns for investors and customers. Clean technologies provide solutions which reduce energy usage, use sustainable resources, or protect the environment.
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- Cluster: Cell-based and plant-based meatA cluster of topics related to cultured meat, plant-based meat, and cellular agriculture.