Finnish food tech start-up Solar Foods is making ice cream out of CO2 captured from air. The company has developed a unique technology that allows it to produce environmentally friendly foods using only air, electricity, and a special species of recently discovered bacteria.
In a test center located just outside of Helsinki, Finland, Solar Foods has been experimenting with this quickly-growing bacteria that feeds on minerals, carbon and hydrogen.
Both the carbon and the hydrogen are separated from the air using a process known as electrolysis. And the only byproduct of the entire process is water, which is also recycled.
The end product resembled a dark-yellow paste, some of which is drained off every day, then superheated and turned into a protein powder that has been trademarked as solein.
In essence, the innovative technological solution can provide a food source that does not require vast fields and resources. Instead, it simple relies on air and a dark warm place to grow.
In the Solar Foods testing site, 2 kilograms of CO2 are turned into 1 kilogram of solein powder, every day.
Currently, the company is building a bigger facility, with 100 times the capacity of the pilot project. It will take up to 2 years to become operable. And in that time, the start-up hopes to obtain a food permit for its product from the EU.
The potential benefits of solein are vast due to its numerous applications. The powder can be used as a substitute for meat, for instance. And due to its high contents of protein, some may argue it to be an even more effective food source.
Namely, the powder contains 65% protein, which is 2.5 times more than in cooked lean beef.
The rest is 15% carbohydrates, 8% fat, and it is also very rich in amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
Furthermore, solein can be used as an ingredient in various non-dairy products, snacks, cereals and even pasta. And one of the most attractive uses at the moment – ice cream.
Although only just tested, Solar Foods’ eco-friendly take on the frozen treat holds huge promise and is made of only four ingredients: solein, water, fat and sugar.
If granted regulatory permission, the start-up’s technology may provide a scalable, climate friendly alternative to meat and crops.