Researchers at LUT University have developed a method of producing single cells of protein from the air.
We’ve seen how scientists sometimes have breakthroughs that seem to be making a reality of science fiction, as we saw with a working sonic tractor beam, and now researchers in Finland have discovered how to make a highly nutritious food material anywhere, using air and electricity.
Called ‘Food From Electricity’, the research is part of the Neo-Carbon Energy project, an international initiative aiming for a completely emissions-free energy production future. The team from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland set out with the motivation of discovering a method of food production that had a reduced environmental impact — farming practices have an enormous affect on land in a rapidly changing climate, so the team devised a way to produce a food source that requires no farming whatsoever. The method requires a few raw materials necessary to make cells work, comparable to a ‘fertilizer’, and a current run through a small container (pictured) that causes naturally occurring molecules in the air to form single cells of high-protein edible material. The system can be set up anywhere, reducing the need for land-grab for farming, and is designed to be run entirely on solar energy to enable set up in arid climates. While the process currently takes two weeks to produce just a single gram of protein, the team are working to scale up and improve energy efficiency, with estimates predicting that their method of food production will be tenfold more efficient that growing crops.
While food production could still be a long way off, in the meantime the team have suggested the system be placed on farms as a way of producing fodder for livestock, reducing the burden on the farming land to produce fodder. The research is set to run for four years and is part funded by the Academy of Finland.
The reality of industrial farming’s impact on our planet is becoming a more widely accepted fact. We’ve seen how a yeast-derived ‘milk’ could reduce the need for dairy farms, so how else can the demands of a growing world population be met?