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Will Air-Based Protein Be Our Future Food?

Food Waste

Food waste and the flip side of the problem--food shortages--aren’t recent problems, but it’s only been in the past few years that next-generation startups have attempted to creatively deal with these contradictory globalized nourishment issues. 

And the future has some wild food rides in store for us. We’re going far beyond innovative thinkers coming up with ways to enable consumers to buy unsold food from restaurants and grocery stores, or to simply recycle food for additional consumption. 

The next step could be futuristic food whose protein sources are entirely composed of air, water and electricity. 

Finnish startup Solar Foods claims that its novel protein “Solein” is a hundred times more climate-friendly than animal or plant-based protein alternatives.

It also believes it can price match soy while simultaneously being 10 times more efficient in the terms of land efficiency. 

Another startup, UK-based Deep Branch Biotechnologies, is taking the new food tech business even further, retrieving carbon dioxide directly from industrial emission.

The company claims that of the total emissions associated with the average person, approximately one-quarter comes from what we eat, and the majority of those emissions are associated with animal products. 

“At Deep Branch, we’re tackling this problem through the development of Proton, our single-cell protein,” the company says.

And the food tech startup frency doesn’t end there. 

Newly founded Air Protein has announced the creation of "air-based" meat, single-cell microorganisms, known as hydrogenotrophs, which convert carbon dioxide into protein.

Even though air-based protein still might sound like too far-fetched an idea to employ in the mainstream, if it manages to gain track it could help tackle food waste, shortages and prices.  

Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — is lost or wasted. Converted into monetary amounts, that’s roughly $1 trillion, with two-thirds of that waste in industrialized nations.

 From the moment crops are harvested to the point they hit supermarket shelves, 14% of all food produced goes to waste. Again, when converted that is around $400 billion. 

In the United States alone, consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion on food that is never eaten. Some 52 million tons of food waste are typically sent to landfills. Another 10 million tons are discarded or left unharvested on farms.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of groceries collectively grew 2.6% in July compared to January when the prices for meats, poultry and fish saw the biggest price hike at the grocery stores, nearly 5%.

The price of cereals and baked goods ticked up a record-breaking 2.9% while nonalcoholic beverages saw a 2.9% increase. Orange juice futures alone have also spiked more than 20% 

Prices have spiked even more in some metro areas where consumers paid nearly 10% more for a dozen eggs than in January, nearly 27% more for a pound of bacon and 30% more for a pound of fresh ground beef. 

For the past 12 months, Americans have been paying over 4% more for overall, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) report.

With continually rising prices, boosted by a pandemic, air-based protein might start to sound deliciously efficient and effective. And the startup that nails it and actually manages to commercialize to scale could seriously disrupt the ~$5 trillion food industry. 

By Josh Owens for Safehaven.com 

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