Finnish researchers have created a batch of single-cell protein that is nutritious enough to serve for dinner using a system powered by renewable energy. The entire process requires only electricity, water, carbon dioxide, and microbes. The synthetic food was created as part of the Food From Electricity project, which is a collaboration between Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
After exposing the raw materials to electrolysis in a bioreactor, the process forms a powder that consists of more than 50 percent protein and 25 percent carbohydrates — the texture can also be changed by altering the microbes used in the production.
The next stage, according to Juha-Pekka Pitkänen, principal scientist at VTT, is to optimize the system because, currently, a bioreactor the size of a coffee cup takes around two weeks to produce one gram of the protein. Pitkänen said in a LUT press release, “We are currently focusing on developing the technology: reactor concepts, technology, improving efficiency, and controlling the process.”
He predicted that it would take about a decade before a more efficient incarnation of the system would be widely available — “Maybe 10 years is a realistic timeframe for reaching commercial capacity, in terms of the necessary legislation and process technology.”