A Finnish company plans to make Solein protein from the air

    01 Jan 2022

    Solar foods, a Finnish alternative protein company has begun construction on Factory 01 and plans to launch the product by 2023. Solein protein is made from… what would you think? From the air by fermentation.

    Factory 01 will grow protein out of microbes cultured with electricity and air. CEO Pasi Vainikka likens the new wave of foodtech becoming commercial to the onset of the digital revolution.

    The new Solar Foods production facility, called Factory 01, is set to begin construction in Q4 2021 in Vantaa, Finland, the company states on its site. The company estimates that the commercial Solein® production will begin in the first half of 2023 and Factory 01 will serve as Solar Foods’ platform for scaling up production.

    Factory 01 will offer the food industry and the public a completely new perspective into what the future of food will be. At the facility’s Experience Hub, visitors can learn how Solein is made and how it can be used in a broad variety of foods.

    Factory 01: Scaling up Solein production

    Solar Foods’ innovative protein powder is a first-of-its-kind food ingredient. Solein can be used in a wide variety of foods, supplementing the nutritional profile of plant-based products and enabling them to replace animal-based foods without compromising nutritional value. So far, Solar Foods has developed more than 20 different types of food products that utilise Solein in varying proportions.

    By removing agriculture from the equation, Solein is set to revolutionise food production. With land use and agriculture making up 24% of global emissions1, the global carbon footprint could be significantly reduced with the large-scale adoption of Solein.

    Solein’s qualities and its use in different foods have been tested in a pilot factory for nearly two years. The new Factory 01 will enable a new scale of operations, allowing Solar Foods to commercialise Solein and chart its way towards full-scale industrial production.

    ‘Tectonic shifts are happening at our dinner tables’

    Solar Foods, founded in 2017 as a spin-off of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and LUT University, has achieved rapid growth. The company’s CEO and co-founder Pasi Vainikka sees Solar Foods as being on the crest of a wave of technologies that will change our perception of food. Even the everyday act of eating will be a force for a more sustainable planet.

    ‘Today we’re at a similar crossroads with the food system as we were in the mid-1980s with information and communication technology’, Vainikka explains. ‘VC funds and new companies are investing billions of dollars to reinvent an entire sector in the global economy: the food industry. Tectonic shifts are happening at our dinner tables. The future of food is here and happening as we speak.’

    ‘We need more sustainable ways to feed the world. What we eat has never been static: humanity has seen food revolutions from the days of the first hunter-gatherers all the way to the unsustainable industrial system of today. The fundamentals of food production have, however, always stayed the same. We’re now in the middle of the fourth agricultural revolution that is finally changing those fundamentals, and Solein is a part of it. Factory 01 will lead the way in taking the world’s most sustainable protein global’, he emphasises.

    Solar Foods has made its vision a reality quickly by developing and testing its groundbreaking protein. Now the company is bringing the world’s most sustainable protein to our plates with its first factory and taking Solein to market. The next food revolution is here.

     

    What is Solein?

    Solein is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids. It vanishes into foods and doesn’t change the taste of familiar, everyday food products.   

    • Solein is produced using a bioprocess where microbes are fed with gases (carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen) and small amounts of nutrients. The bioprocess resembles winemaking, with carbon dioxide and hydrogen replacing sugar as the source of carbon and energy, respectively.  
    • Solein complements the nutritional profile of plant-based food products without the consumer noticing a difference in the final dish. It can be used as a structure-forming ingredient for example in alternative dairy and meat, different snacks and beverages, noodles and pasta, or breads and spreads in replacing meat, dairy, and egg.
    • The production of Solein is not reliant on agriculture, weather, or climate: it can be produced in harsh conditions such as deserts, Arctic areas, even space. The process does not require agriculture, photosynthetic plants, or animals, making Solein the world’s most sustainable protein.  
    • Solein will become available for commercial use for the first time. It is aimed at food brands looking for nutritious, neutral, functional, and sustainable protein ingredients of consistent quality that can be reliably delivered for their products.  

    Watch a video to learn more from here.

     

    About Solar Foods Ltd

    Solar Foods produces protein using air-captured carbon dioxide and electricity. Solein production, independent of weather and climate conditions, liberates global protein production from the limits of traditional agriculture. Solein can be produced in harsh environments, such as desert and Arctic areas or even outer space, where traditional food production is not possible. Solar Foods was founded in Espoo, Finland, in 2017 by Dr Pasi Vainikka, Dr Juha-Pekka Pitkänen, Sami Holmström, Jari Tuovinen, Professor Jero Ahola, and Janne Mäkelä as a spinoff from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and LUT University. 

    1: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2014. AR5 Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change.

     

    Solar was founded in 2017 as a spinout of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and LUT University.

     

    The factory: production and experience

    According to Solar, the new facility won’t just house its industrial production plant. It’ll also be home to an “experience hub” where the public will be offered a chance to see how Solein is made and the way the ingredient can be incorporated into food products, from meat substitutes to dairy-free drinks.

    So far, Solein has already demonstrated its use in around 20 products, including vegan burger patties and plant-based meatballs.

     

    For CEO Pasi Vainikka, Factory 01 will serve as a platform not just for Solar to scale, but to show the world what the future of climate-friendly food production could look like. “Today we’re at a similar crossroads with the food system as we were in the mid-1980s with information and communication technology,” he says. “Tectonic shifts are happening at our dinner tables. The future of food is here and happening as we speak.”

    Ultimately, the company hopes the site will enable the rapid scale-up of Solein, its protein made out of thin air. The protein ingredient, which contains all the essential amino acids yet bears no taste when incorporated into foods, is made through a bioprocess. Microbes are fed with gases from the air—CO2, hydrogen, and oxygen—and then given small amounts of nutrients.

    Solar claims that this process makes it the world’s most sustainable form of protein, as it does not rely on agriculture and isn’t affected by weather conditions—even harsh climates such as the desert or in space.

    Taking land use and agriculture out of the equation, Solar believes Solein could be a big part of making a dent in the enormous footprint of livestock farming, which currently drives 18% of GHG emissions and is fuelling unsustainable practices such as deforestation.

    “We need more sustainable ways to feed the world,” said Vainikka. “We’re now in the middle of the fourth agricultural revolution and Solein is a part of it. Factory 01 will lead the way in taking the world’s most sustainable protein global.”

    The news from Solar comes just months after it secured €10 million from the Finnish Climate Fund, marking the state-owned sustainability-focused fund’s first investment. It brought the startup’s total financing to date to €35 million, with Business Finland among its backers, another Finnish government agency supporting innovation.

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