The company is taking carbon dioxide—the pernicious greenhouse gas warming our planet—and transforming it into a juicy steak or a delicate salmon fillet. The process is similar to how yoghurt is made, relying on live cultures. Air Protein cultivates hydrogenotrophic microbes inside fermentation tanks and feeds them a mix of carbon dioxide, oxygen, minerals, water, and nitrogen. The end result is a protein-rich flour, which has a similar amino acid profile as meat protein. But how does the company turn that into a tender chicken breast? "We just add culinary techniques that give you the different textures that you're looking for," says Dyson—using a combination of pressure, temperature, and cooking techniques.
The technology's climate-saving potential is twofold. First, the process itself is carbon-negative, as it uses carbon dioxide to make the protein, and Air Protein aims to eventually pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through direct-air capture plants. Second, the process uses 1.5 million times less land than beef and reduces water usage 15,000 times compared to beef.
Does this sound ridiculous? Maybe. Maybe not. The company raised over $30 million in VC funding last year, and their idea is actually based on a NASA research paper from 1967 that proposed a similar process for helping to feed astronauts on Mars expeditions.
Air Protein isn't available yet, but I'd be intrigued enough to try it out whenever it is.
This Startup Is Trying to Make Juicy Steaks Out of Thin Air [Grace Browne / Wired]