Can carbon compounds harvested from the air itself be used to manufacture protein and ethanol? Some companies are claiming that such carbon-based products are an environmentally sustainable and economically viable solution to growing consumer needs.
Amino-acid proteins can be created via a fermentation process involving carbon compounds, bacteria, and few other inputs. Known as gas fermentation, this process uses bioreactors to collect carbon compounds from the air. Bacteria then feed on the compounds, converting them into proteins, fuels, and more. For example, LanzaTech is working on recycling carbon emissions into ethanol fuel.
Now, several companies are exploring using carbon products in the food and beverage industry, among others. Novo Nutrients, Deep Branch Biodiversity, and Unibio are utilizing carbon dioxide (CO2) fermentation to produce fish and animal feed. Another company, Calysta, is using methane fermentation to generate animal feed, and recently secured a $30 million investment from British Petroleum.
But could this technology reach consumer products? San Francisco-based Kiverdi has found a way to upcycle CO2 into oils, protein, and more. Solar Foods in Finland, meanwhile, is using a sun-powered CO2 fermentation process to create protein powder that they want food ingredient companies to use in everything from lasagna to plant and cell-based meat alternatives.