Culture

Bay Area-based Air Protein makes “meat” from thin air using space-age science


Using space-age technology to make “meat” out of thin air is science, not fiction.

A new entrant to the edible protein scene, the Berkeley-based startup Air Protein makes a meat alternative using NASA-inspired fermentation technology to transform CO2 — what we exhale into the air — into a complete edible protein.

While other well-known meat alternative companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat make plant-based protein from soy and peas, Air Protein is the first to make “air-based” protein by farming carbon from the air with microbes. The startup’s recent $32 million Series A funding round, closed in January and led by investors ADM Ventures, Barclays and GV (formerly Google Ventures), secures its spot in the rapidly expanding field of meatless meat in the new wave of alternative protein technology — fermentation.

Dr. Lisa Dyson is Air Protein’s founder & CEO. (Leigh Nile Photography) 

Founder & CEO Dr. Lisa Dyson, an award-winning research physicist and strategy consultant, hopes Air Protein’s technology will “create the most sustainable meat available and significantly reduce the burden on our planet’s resources that is being caused by our current meat production processes,” she said in an email.

In a 2016 TED talk, Dyson asked the audience to “Imagine you are a part of a crew of astronauts traveling to Mars or some distant planet. How would you feed that crew of astronauts with limited resources in the closed system of a spaceship?” That’s the question NASA scientists asked in the 1960s that led them to the discovery that microbes could convert CO2 into food for astronauts.

Dyson and her colleague Dr. John Reed came upon this research while exploring ways to capture and recycle carbon to help with the climate crisis. They realized that they could use these microbes in a similar way to make food for people down here on spaceship Earth.

“I began focusing on the effects of climate-driven disasters while working to help rebuild New Orleans” — where her mother’s family lives — “after Hurricane Katrina,” Dyson said in the email. While investigating ways she could contribute to reducing or reversing climate change, Dyson learned that food production, from farming to processing to distribution, is one of the largest contributors. The latest estimates show the global food system making up over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

On top of that, clearing land for farming is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation around the world. In the Amazon rainforest, cattle ranching is the cause of 80% of current deforestation.

“As a scientist and a businesswoman, I leaned on my background and knowledge to come up with a way to make food more sustainably,” Dyson wrote. “I focused on meat, because meat production represents the largest burden on our planet in food production.”

Using fermentation tanks, which Dyson refers to as “vertical protein farms,” in a process similar to making yogurt or wine, Air Protein combines “elements from the air we breathe — carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen (with) water and mineral nutrients,” the company says. Renewable energy powers …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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