It may sound like science fiction, but in a few years the family table might be loaded with steak from a printer and other proteins produced from air, methane or volcanic microbes.
With the explosive success of vegan beef and hamburger substitutes developed by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the alternative protein sector continues to grow.
According to investment bank Barclays, the sale of alternative meat products could reach $ 140 billion – or 10 percent of the global meat industry – within 10 years, or a 10-fold increase from the current level.
A new generation of products at the plant combines advanced technology with age-old fermentation processes to convert otherwise harmful or everyday elements into essential food ingredients, with the aim of reducing the huge carbon footprint of agriculture.
With the explosive success of vegan beef and hamburger substitutes developed by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the alternative protein sector continues to grow
According to the United Nations, agricultural, forestry and other land use activities accounted for 23% of total net man-made greenhouse gas emissions between 2007 and 2016, up to 37% when pre and post production were taken into account.
Vee is now responsible for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Go to Solar Foods, a Finnish company that works on an edible protein powder called Solein that uses water, air and renewable electricity as a way to separate food production from agriculture.
& # 39; You avoid impacts on land use such as forest clearing for agriculture, the use of pesticides and the use of fertilizers that release greenhouse gases, and so on, & # 39; co-founder and CEO Pasi Vainikka told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Solein is made by putting microbes in a liquid and giving them small bubbles of hydrogen and carbon dioxide, a process similar to making beer or wine, apart from the lack of grapes or grains, Vainikka explained.
As the liquid thickens, it is dried into a very fine powder that contains approximately 65% protein and tastes much like wheat flour.
In September, Solar Foods signed an agreement with the Nordic food company Fazer to develop products using Solein, which can be used in existing vegetable products or future offers such as meat from laboratory vegetables.
Solein costs around € 5 per kilo ($ 2.50 per pound) to produce and will be on the market by 2021, Vainikka said.
& # 39; There is a lot of climate anxiety, & # 39; he said. & # 39; And people are looking for hope and solutions and they're happy to see companies like ours, so that's encouraging. & # 39;
According to investment bank Barclays, the sale of alternative meat products can reach $ 140 billion within 10 years – or 10 percent of the global meat industry – or a 10-fold increase over the current level (stock image of an impossible hamburger)
FERMENTATION, FERMENTATION, FERMENTATION
Another company that tackles agricultural emissions through fermentation, Bangalore-based String Bio, is working on the conversion of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more powerful than carbon dioxide, because it traps 28 times more heat, from waste and natural sources, into protein powder – into primarily for animals.
& # 39; We said that this is probably the best impact that we humans can have in this world, where we take something that we don't need for the environment and turn it into something that we do need & # 39 ;, said Vinod Kumar, who set up the company with his wife Ezhil Subbian.
Such environmental considerations, along with animal welfare and human health concerns, have driven both the demand for and supply of alternative proteins, said Dan Altschuler Malek, Managing Partner at investment company Unovis Partners.
Just 10 years ago, he said retailers saw alternative proteins as a risky bet, but today they realize that there is a huge demand for all of these products. & # 39;
Unovis manages New Crop Capital, a fund that invests exclusively in startups that develop meat, fish and dairy substitutes, including Beyond Meat.
New Crop has also invested in Nova Meats, a Spanish company that uses a special 3D printer to produce steak that can mimic the taste and texture of meat.
The printers produce three-dimensional vegan steaks using cartridge-like syringes that extrude vegetable proteins.
VOLCANOES AND SMALL ORGANISMS
Some have criticized plant-based alternatives that flood the stores' shelves as highly processed and sodium-rich, and Harvard scientists have recently questioned their role in a healthy diet.
Others, such as the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is supported by the food and beverage industry, have launched campaigns in which so-called & # 39; fake meat & # 39; is loaded with chemicals.
Proponents claim that hamburgers are always loaded with fat and sodium and were never exactly considered to be health foods.
The new generation of proteins is also less processed, says Thomas Jonas, CEO of Sustainable Bioproducts, whose protein is based on microbes found in volcanic hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.
In that arid, extraterrestrial and dangerous landscape, researchers & # 39; discovered a set of life forms that have evolved over millennia to survive in this environment & # 39 ;, he said.
A new generation of products at the plant combines advanced technology with age-old fermentation processes to convert otherwise harmful or everyday elements into essential food ingredients, with the aim of reducing the huge carbon footprint of agriculture (pictured is an impossible Whopper)
The company raised $ 33 million in February and plans next year & # 39; a hamburger equivalent & # 39; by producing a & # 39; new fermentation & # 39; of the microbes.
At full capacity, his 35,000-square-foot plant in Chicago could produce hamburgers equivalent to those made from cows grazing on 15,000 acres (6,100 acres) of land, Jonas said.
For investors such as Altschuler Malek, alternative proteins are all about options for consumers, with three essential comments:
& # 39; It must taste good, it must meet certain price points and it must be able to be produced in large quantities & # 39 ;, he said.
& # 39; There are great chefs worldwide who make vegetable products. But if you can't turn that into mass production, it's really hard to see how that can actually make a change in the world. & # 39;
It is also an opportunity for a radical shift in agriculture that, despite incremental improvements, has remained virtually the same for centuries, Jonas said.
& # 39; Fundamentally, we survive on this planet based on an agricultural system that has hardly changed in the last 11,000 years … when we have domesticated a handful of plants and animals. & # 39;
& # 39; New technologies really give us tools for a second domestication – things we didn't even know were there. & # 39;
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