Agriculture is responsible for a quarter of annual greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector in the world. And the meat industry is the one that produces the most emissions.
Despite this and the attempts of vegetarians and vegans, the world continues to consume enormous amounts of meat.World meat consumption is around 350 million tons per year and is increasing.
It is estimated that in 2050 the world population will reach 10,000 million people, which means that we must find alternative proteins to feed all those additional mouths or we will end up destroying our ecosystem (already very damaged).
And for this Lisa Dysen, a physicist, and John Reed, a materials scientist, joined forces with a common goal: to help curb climate change, and the way was to use a forgotten NASA investigation from 1967.
This document explored ways to feed astronauts on a long space voyage, where there would be few resources. One idea was to combine microbes with the carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts to make food.
Because the space program never got to Mars, the idea didn’t quite come to fruition. Dyson and Reed decided to take the concept and make it happen. In 2008, this decades-old concept inspired Dyson and Reid to found Kiverdi, their first company.
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And already in 2019, they created Air Protein, a California-based startup whose goal is to make meat from the air. The company takes the carbon dioxide and transforms it into a juicy steak or delicate salmon fillet.
The process is similar to making yogurt, which is based on live cultures . Air Protein grows hydrogenotrophic microbes in fermentation tanks and feeds them a mixture of carbon dioxide, oxygen, minerals, water and nitrogen.
The end result is a flour rich in protein, which has an amino acid profile similar to that of meat protein. But the magic is turning the carbon dioxide into chicken breasts. “We just add cooking techniques that give you the different textures you’re looking for,” explains Dyson.
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The climate potential of this technology is twofold. First, the process itself is carbon negative, as it uses carbon dioxide to make the protein, and Air Protein claims to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using plants direct capture.
Second, the process uses 1.5 million times less land than beef and reduces water use 15,000 times compared to beef.
The most crucial part is making the process cost competitive with the meat industry, as well as other meat alternatives such as soy and microprotein. As of early 2021, it raised over $30 million in funding.