When people ask how on Earth I manage to get enough protein as a vegan, I can’t help but laugh. There are now so many tasty (really!) options to eat on the daily: soy-based ones like tempeh and tofu as well as straight-up plants, like lentils, quinoa, almonds, and chia seeds. I mean, now you can even get bleeding, meat-like burgers made from powdered peas, for goodness sake. The future of plant-based protein might not be made of plants at all, though: it could come out of thin air. Literally.
Solar Foods—a company based out of Finland—had one goal: to create a totally vegan, pure, single-cell protein using some minerals, air, and electricity. They wanted to make something that wouldn’t be dependent on any of the unknowns of the future, like agriculture, the weather, or the climate. And somehow, they did it. It seems impossible, but according to Forbes, the company creates the edible product—which looks like tan-colored flakes—by first electrolyzing water to create hydrogen, then combining that hydrogen with carbon dioxide and “some minerals to feed microbes, which create protein.” This all happens in a bioreactor tank, which Forbes likens to the Star Trek replicator (AKA something way more advanced than those test tubes you tinkered with in chemistry class).
Solar Foods plans to produce its sustainable protein powder commercially by 2021. “Our goal is to develop the protein into a high-quality product whose environmental impact will be 10 to 100 times smaller than those of meat products or their substitutes currently in the market,” said Pasi Vainikka, Solar Foods’ CEO in a press release.
Right now, there’s no intel on how exactly this revolutionary vegan protein will be used, but it seems like the options are endless. Indeed, Solar Foods just announced a partnership the European Space Agency (ESA) to create edible proteins for people to consume during space flights to Mars. But considering the protein is a powder in its natural state, I’m willing to bet it could give your smoothies a boost right here on Earth.
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