Solar Foods, the Finnish food tech making protein from thin air, is set to begin building its first industrial-scale production facility this year. Dubbed Factory 01, the new site will allow the firm to scale and commercialise Solein, which it claims is the “world’s most sustainable protein”. The factory will also house an experience hub for visitors to see and learn all about air protein.
Solar Foods will soon begin construction of Factory 01, its first commercial-scale production facility that will make Solein, the company’s flagship protein created from air. Slated to be operational in 2023, the Vantaa-based site will allow the Finnish startup to scale its product and ultimately bring “the world’s most sustainable protein” to market.
Solar was founded in 2017 as a spinout of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and LUT University.
The factory: production and experience
According to Solar, the new facility won’t just house its industrial production plant. It’ll also be home to an “experience hub” where the public will be offered a chance to see how Solein is made and the way the ingredient can be incorporated into food products, from meat substitutes to dairy-free drinks.
So far, Solein has already demonstrated its use in around 20 products, including vegan burger patties and plant-based meatballs.
For CEO Pasi Vainikka, Factory 01 will serve as a platform not just for Solar to scale, but to show the world what the future of climate-friendly food production could look like. “Today we’re at a similar crossroads with the food system as we were in the mid-1980s with information and communication technology,” he says. “Tectonic shifts are happening at our dinner tables. The future of food is here and happening as we speak.”
What is Solein?
Ultimately, the company hopes the site will enable the rapid scale-up of Solein, its protein made out of thin air. The protein ingredient, which contains all the essential amino acids yet bears no taste when incorporated into foods, is made through a bioprocess. Microbes are fed with gases from the air—CO2, hydrogen, and oxygen—and then given small amounts of nutrients.
Solar claims that this process makes it the world’s most sustainable form of protein, as it does not rely on agriculture and isn’t affected by weather conditions—even harsh climates such as the desert or in space.
Taking land use and agriculture out of the equation, Solar believes Solein could be a big part of making a dent in the enormous footprint of livestock farming, which currently drives 18% of GHG emissions and is fuelling unsustainable practices such as deforestation.
“We need more sustainable ways to feed the world,” said Vainikka. “We’re now in the middle of the fourth agricultural revolution and Solein is a part of it. Factory 01 will lead the way in taking the world’s most sustainable protein global.”
The news from Solar comes just months after it secured €10 million from the Finnish Climate Fund, marking the state-owned sustainability-focused fund’s first investment. It brought the startup’s total financing to date to €35 million, with Business Finland among its backers, another Finnish government agency supporting innovation.
All images courtesy of Solar Foods.