Energy costs might be the only real barrier to replacing farm animals and producing nutritious meals in a lab

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The industrial biotech startup is working on bringing a novel protein to market — one it says will offer a nutritious, sustainable alternative to animal-derived proteins. The product, a single-cell protein it’s branding Solein, is essentially an edible bacteria; a single-cell microbe grown using gas fermentation.

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The problem Solar Foods is aiming to tackle is that the environmental costs of livestock-based meat production are indisputably massive — whether you’re talking about unsustainable land and water use; climate-heating emissions and pollution; or animal welfare concerns. But what if you could produce billions of nutritious meals without the need to deforest huge swathes of land and slaughter masses of livestock to produce the food? What if humanity could feed itself and stop consuming the planet in the process?

Solein looks like a no-brainer on the environmental front. But one key component of its production — energy, ie, electricity — is facing supply issues of its own in Europe at present in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Russia being a major but unreliable supplier of gas to Europe.)…

[CEO Pasi Vainikka] suggests Solar Foods may therefore need to wait out the current energy crisis before it’s able to scale commercial production of Solein in a way that’s economically viable — though it’s banking on Europe being able to find a way through to more stable electricity prices in the not too distant future.

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