It's nothing new that our current food production model is unsustainable and accelerating climate change at an unfathomable rate. So when a Finnish company came up with a way to make food out of 'thin air', naturally, the world was captivated. Not only was it a moonshot idea, but they had science to back it up. This landed Solar Foods the community category win for Index Award 2019.
Now, the company is powering ahead to bring their lab-produced protein from pilot phase to commercial operation. Named Solein, the protein's made using CO2 and electricity and produced via an entirely natural fermentation process, similar to the production of yeast.
"We are about to introduce completely new food for humankind!"
In its raw state, it can replace the fillers now used in thousands of food products, from drinks, baked goods, pre-packaged meals and more. The production process is ten times more energy-efficient per hectare than photosynthesis, and 10 to 100 times more climate-friendly and efficient in water use compared to animal or plant-based alternatives.
Since winning an Index Award, Solar Foods have entered into a new strategic partnership with food experience giants Fazer Group, to research and develop Solein collaboratively. According to Fazer, the aim is to "innovate across categories and boldly support innovations that may change the way people eat in the future".
"We can disconnect from the process of agriculture — from the concepts of plants and animals."
"We are excited now to go full-steam ahead towards the commercialisation of Solein," says Dr Juha-Pekka Pitkänen, chairman and co-founder of Solar Foods. "The new funding announced today enables us to finish the piloting phase, prepare the required technical pre-engineering for go-to-market, build a team around it, and finalise the novel food dossier for Solein. After all, we are about to introduce completely new food for humankind!"
Solar Foods is currently operating a pilot plant just outside Helsinki, but are planning to have the first commercial factory built in 2021. The team are also planning to create the specific proteins needed for lab-grown meat, milk and eggs, as well as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for lab-grown fish.
For Co-Founder and CEO Dr Pasi Vainikka this is the reinvention of a virtually untouched industry: "What we're doing at Solar Foods is completely changing how we generate food and how we can disconnect from the process of agriculture — from the concepts of plants and animals."