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Has the future of food just arrived?

The first moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the launch of the iPhone have been some of the most memorable and iconic moments of recent history. But will the moment that Solar Foods first broke ground on its new factory in Finland this week one day join that list?

In a fun and creative new promotion video the Finnish company, which has the rather impressive innovative capability of being able to produce food using only electricity and air, suggests viewers might look back on the early days of its new Vantaa facility as one of those: ‘where were you when…’ moments. Due to be completed in 2023, Factory 01 will enable Solar Foods to make what promises to be one of the world’s most carbon-friendly proteins, which it calls Solein, out of thin air – and at scale.

The global carbon footprint could be significantly reduced with large-scale adoption of Solein as it is created completely without agriculture.

Solar Foods

Founded as a spin-off of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and LUT University in 2017, Solar Foods has grown rapidly and attracted around €35 million of investment. Pasi Vainikka, the company’s CEO, believes Solein is among a ‘wave of technologies’ that is about to ‘change our perception of food’.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

In a previous article on Solar Foods it was pointed out that not all proteins are made equally and that, to varying degrees, they use up precious land resources. The way Solein is produced means it can protect land and could also drastically improve production efficiency; so if it can do what it says on the tin then it is the kind of innovation the world very much needs more of right now.

Emissions gap

As yesterday’s UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2021 revealed, current commitments by governments fall well short of putting the world on track to meet the 1.5°C Paris goal, with temperature rises this century of at least 2.7°C expected. A trajectory a recent IPCC report said will result in heat extremes that ‘more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health’.

“Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, we have eight years to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions: eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly.”

And as one IPCC report revealed, land use and agriculture are responsible for 24% of global emissions. Which makes Solein, a protein made without agriculture, one of the many innovative solutions that are going to be needed to produce an effective response to the ‘now problem’ of climate change.

Solar Foods says it wants to ‘disconnect food production from the accelerating consumption of natural resources’, and for the potential it has it is undoubtedly one of our impact innovators to watch.

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Written By

Iain is an experienced writer, journalist and lecturer, who held editorships with a number of business focussed publications before co-founding and becoming editor of Innovators Magazine. Iain is also the strategic director for OnePoint5Media.

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