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An ingredient made ‘out of thin air’

The latest in food technology is a vegan protein created with solar power to produce breads, pasta, ice cream and more

(from left) A chef makes pasta using Solein at the launch; and half a spoonful of Solein. (Photos: @soleinprotein, Instagram)
(from left) A chef makes pasta using Solein at the launch; and half a spoonful of Solein. (Photos: @soleinprotein, Instagram)

A Bloomberg story, titled This Is What Food Made From Air, Water and Electricity Looks Like, published on Thursday reported that a Finnish company, Solar Foods, invented an edible powder made with elements of nature. At an event held in Singapore yesterday, the ingredient named Solein was launched. It was used to prepare dishes, like pasta, salad and ice cream, served in a multi-course menu.

Solein is a fine powder, the colour of haldi and is touted as the ‘future of food.’ A story published on the company’s website, quoted Solar Foods chief executive office and partner Pasi Vainikka as saying, "“This is the first time in history humankind can be provided with edible calories that at no point require photosynthesis. So far photosynthetic plants have been the only feasible way to receive energy from the sun to feed humankind. Now, this process can be by-passed in its entirety. That’s an absolutely historic moment. A new era begins in the primary production of food and restoring biodiversity.”

The process to create this ingredient involves microbes and fermentation. The company website informs they take a single microbe and multiplies it through fermentation, and ‘feed it’ with carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and electricity. Then end product requires harvesting. It contains water and which is removed to yield a powdery substance, Solein.

The Bloomberg story quoted Vainikka as saying, ‘Solein won’t be widely available until 2024 at least when a small-scale proof-of-concept plant is fully operational. The glacial pace of approvals is one factor that’s slowing its rollout. Singapore is the only jurisdiction that’s given Solein the green light. Approval in the European Union isn’t expected before 2025.’ This is another step towards the direction of creating kinder and nutritious foods through food technology.

Also read | Want to make a climate-friendly curry? Add breadfruit

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