A new protein from soil bacteria has been created that is claimed to be 100 times more climate-friendly than meat.
The climate crisis has highlighted to many how conventional food production uses water and land at unsustainable levels. Meat and dairy are the world’s largest users of land resource, with grazing and cropland dedicated to the production of feed representing almost 80% of all agricultural land.
Pasi Vainikka, CEO of SolarFoods wanted to find a solution to this problem and has since created a protein flour, called Solein, that could be used as animal feed to save them from eating imported soya grown in the rainforest.
The protein is produced from soil bacteria fed on hydrogen split from water by electricity. According to the researchers if the electricity comes from renewable power, then the food can be grown with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on the water and land that would be saved by using Solein, it is estimated to be 100 times more climate-friendly than meat and 10 times better than plants.
Professor Leon Terry, director of environment and agrifood at Cranfield University says: There is increased momentum and private investment around synthetic foods, with lots of positive promises made.
‘But two issues remain: has proper life cycle analysis been done? And is there really an appetite for consumption.
We have seen new technology provide new food solutions before that the public have struggled to accept such as genetically modified crops.’
Dr Adrian Williams, reader in the school of water, energy and environment said: ‘This is very promising technology that contrasts with established fungal proteins that use plant-based materials as substrated instead of atmospheric CO2.
A key limit is the availability of renewable electricity for producing the hydrogen that is essential to the production process. It still requires minerals and infrastructure for its production.
The novel protein should be evaluated with a prospective consequential life cycle assessment to quantify its net environmental benefits under different scenarios.
Earlier this year on Environment Journal, Jacob Tucker explored whether genetically modified food has had a bad press for decades, but it could be vital in tackling food scarcity in developing countries, writes Jacob Tucker.
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