Shiny metal bioreactor with lots of pipes and a window showing yellow contents.

This machine makes food that’s healthy, tasty and environmentally friendly!

Image: Solar Foods

You’ve heard of plant-based protein, but what about food made from electricity?

That’s what tech company Solar Foods has been cooking up. Their new product, Solein, is a natural protein that contains all of the nine essential amino acids required by the human body.

Around 95% of the protein’s ingredients can be pulled straight out of the air – water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. From there, the first step is using electricity to rip water molecules apart into hydrogen and oxygen. Some of the hydrogen is then combined with nitrogen gas to make ammonia, a common fertiliser. A few important minerals are also added into the mix.

All these chemicals are then fed to microorganisms in a bioreactor run by renewable electricity. The microorganisms ferment and multiply before they are dried into an edible powder. The whole process is surprisingly sustainable. Solar Foods says that their method is much more efficient than growing plants and feeding them to animals for meat.

Solein has one more benefit over traditional farming. Since the process doesn’t need soil or sunlight, it’s perfect for harsh climates like polar bases or submarines. In fact, everything that’s needed can be found on Mars!

And finally, the most important question – what does it taste like? Apparently, it has a mild, umami or savoury flavour, but it’s easy to use in a range of recipes. It has already been tested in alternative meats, noodles and even ice cream!

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